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New law on working hours: Rector Schütz of MedUni Vienna calls upon Works Council to relent

(Vienna, 04-05-2015) Even after further talks, there is still no agreement in the negotiations between the Rector’s Office of MedUni Vienna and the Works Council on the new Hospital Working Hours Act (Krankenanstalten-Arbeitszeitgesetz or KA-AZG) for doctors at Vienna General Hospital of MedUni Vienna. "I no longer understand the ongoing negative attitude on the part of the Works Council," responded Wolfgang Schütz, Rector of MedUni Vienna. "In the interests of the medical fraternity at MedUni Vienna and of the patients at Vienna General Hospital, our negotiation partners should leave the picket line and come to the negotiating table, instead of holding their own meetings and coming up with more and more demands."

Following the collapse of several rounds of negotiations, MedUni Vienna improved its offer once again in mid-March, thereby conceding to the wishes of the Works Council on several points. Even six weeks later there has still been no agreement on this offer but, instead, new demands have repeatedly been made.

20% salary increase as from 01.01.2016 and a further 10% on 01.01.2019
The current offer now comprises an across-the-board 20% pay rise for all medical staff at MedUni Vienna, taking effect on 1 January 2016. All doctors would then receive an additional 10% increase on 1 January 2019. "That would therefore constitute a 30% increase in salary by 2019, thereby exceeding the pay rise originally demanded by the Works Council," said Rector Wolfgang Schütz, adding that part of the funding available for the 2016 – 18 period could also be anticipated for the retrospective pay rise demanded from 1 January 2015.

48-hour week in the hospital as from 2017, optional overtime for research and teaching

The offer put on the table by MedUni Vienna also postponed the start of a 48-hour week from 1 July 2016, as proposed in an earlier offer, to 1 January 2017, thereby conceding to yet another of the Works Council’s demands. In addition, even after this date, an opt-out clause would enable doctors at MedUni Vienna to work more than 48 hours, if they wished. These additional hours are to be used exclusively for research and teaching, the core functions of a medical University.

"The overall package, which is linked to implementation of new duty rosters, is so attractive that I cannot understand the immovable attitude adopted by the Works Council. All the more so since there is not only a significant increase in basic salary but also the option to continue to work the current number of overtime hours. This would mean that, in future, doctors' salaries at MedUni Vienna would be amongst the highest in the country – and indeed in the world – especially for young doctors training to be specialist consultants," added Schütz.

Agreement on more flexible duty rosters, no staffing cuts

Agreement has already been reached on new duty rosters and remuneration for on-call duty. With a view to continuing to provide optimum care for patients at Vienna General Hospital, the new duty rosters will be adjusted much more flexibly to patient numbers than previously. "Under no circumstances will these necessary measures be associated with staffing cuts," reassured Schütz.  

The statutory reduction in working hours is in response to the KA-AZG Amendment, which came into force on 1 January 2015 and which makes provision for a reduction in the working week of hospital doctors from the current average of 60 hours to 48 hours, albeit with a transitional period in the form of personal opt-out until 2021.

The option for making full use of this transitional period will be available at MedUni Vienna right up to the end of the statutory period (1 July 2021), so that the offer made by the Rector’s Office would be accompanied by a real pay increase for 5 1/2 years. However, even after the end of this period, most doctors would still see a real increase in their pay.