President Shimon Peres on Wednesday called on all parties involved in the nursing labor dispute to settle their differences for the good of the public, according to Army Radio.
"We must not let the doctor and nurse strike continue longer than a day, because it's not a regular strike of doctors and nurses, but a shutdown of hospitals," Peres said. "If I was in government I would say that we must accept the verdict."
Talks between the two sides restarted midday Wednesday, after the Tel Aviv Labor Court rejected late Tuesday night the government’s request to issue restraining orders against 28,000 nurses who have been applying sanctions in public health institutions for the past nine days.
The sanctions caused serious disruption in hospitals, community health fund clinics and government facilities.
The nurses said they would ease their labor sanctions on Thursday and Friday, allowing those working at Clalit, the largest health fund, to return to work , Army Radio reported.
During the hearing Tuesday evening, Judge Efrat Laxer called a recess for representatives of the two sides to come to her office. Before the break, she criticized the Finance Ministry’s conduct.
Laxer turned to the Treasury’s wage division legal adviser, attorney Kobi Amsalem, and told him: “You cannot be ‘half pregnant.’ You are holding negotiations in spite of the fact Israel is facing elections. Where is the limit?”
Amsalem responded that negotiations were held with a mind to resolving the issue in the long term, since “hundreds of millions of shekels are at stake.”
Laxer continued pressing Amsalem to offer the nurses “some kind of solution,” and not to prevent them from protesting.
Amsalem responded, “This is election time, I have my limits.”
Laxer said she expected the state to show more flexibility in the matter.
Saying their sanctions did not “hurt the government enough,” but still reluctant to cause damage to their patients, nurses across the country walked off their jobs in hospital departments where lives would not be at risk from 9 a.m. on Tuesday and returned at 1 p.m. Restricted numbers of nurses remained staffed in intensive care and in medication distribution.
The nurses continue to work on a limited “Shabbat schedule,” tending only to urgent cases.
The Finance and Health ministries and Clalit Health Services decided earlier to ask for the restraining orders after they realized that negotiations had reached a dead end.
The Treasury and the Israel Nurses Association accused each other of foot-dragging and “lack of seriousness” in talks to reach a wage agreement to replace the one that expires at the end of the month. The Treasury issued copies of salary slips showing that nurses earn “very good salaries” (usually hospital nurses who work frequent weekend and holiday shifts), while the nurses’ union presented the wage slips of other nurses who earn so little they are entitled to income supplements (mostly nurses working in community clinics who work conventional hours).
As damage to the health system’s normal routines accumulated, the School Health Service developed a large backlog in scheduled vaccinations of pupils, and well-baby (tipat halav) stations continued to fall behind in vaccinating, measuring and testing babies and toddlers.
Thousands of elective operations and treatments have been postponed, creating a queue that will take months to eliminate.
Despite their disagreements, both sides agree that there is a severe shortage of nurses in the country. Despite their suffering, patients generally voiced their support for the nurses in their struggle.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon launched a campaign on Tuesday to hand out white rubber bracelets to mobilize public support for the nurses’ demands.
Hadash MK Dov Henin charged that it “wasn’t the nurses who abandoned their patients on Tuesday morning but the government.”
Although Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini called on Prime Minister (and formally health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu to get involved immediately in the labor unrest, he has not done so.
Gilon called on Netanyahu to visit the hospitals to see the patients’ and nurses’ problems.