Nurses across the country began abandoning their hospital posts Tuesday morning in a move meant to spur the Treasury in stalled labor negotiations, as the crisis dragged into its ninth-day. Limited numbers of nurses remained staffed in intensive care and medication administration, but moved out of other wards altogether in a planned four-hour intensification of the strike.
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini repeated his called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene in the nursing labor crisis on Tuesday morning, saying "a solution can only be hammered out around a negotiating table. In this case there is no alternative to the prime minister, who has the responsibility to the public to involve himself in the proceedings and resolve the crisis."
The crisis, however, continued to escalate, as the Finance and Health Ministries and Clalit Health Services asked the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court for restraining orders against the nurses – to prevent them from instituting further sanctions or abandoning their workplaces entirely.
The ministries claim that the nurses have failed to hold “genuine negotiations and seriously discuss proposals raised by the Treasury” despite growing harm to the public. The government maintains that the nurses are bound to work normally until the expiration of their labor contract at the end of this month.
The economy is in a period of “uncertainty” ministries stated Tuesday night, “due to the slowing in growth, negative developments in the world economy and extreme uncertainty in the Euro bloc.”
In addition, the statement continued, the fact that there is no approved national budget before the elections makes it more difficult to sign a wage contract: “The next government is the one that decides priorities and economic policy.”
The sanctions have resulted in minimal Shabbat schedules in public hospitals and in community health fund clinics, as well as well-baby clinics and Health Ministry installations.
Eini said at the Israel Business Conference on Monday night that he raised the issue of nurses’ salaries and inadequate manpower with Netanyahu some time ago and that “he understood their distress.” Last March, Eini and his labor federation colleagues prepared a formula to start negotiations in September so as not to violate the framework of pay for public workers. But September arrived and nothing was done, he added.
He warned that members of the Israel Nurses Association, headed by Ilana Cohen, may abandon the hospitals because they feel they have “nothing to lose. I call on the prime minister to come and sit down and give the nursing profession the recognition it deserves.”
The Histadrut chairman said the nurses’ working conditions are insufferable and that 2,000 more professionals are needed in the profession every year, but the nursing schools produce only 1,000 new graduates.
“I see nurses as angels,” said Eini. “In the 1990s, new immigrant nurses from the former Soviet Union filled the ranks, but now this is finished. Any person who has been hospitalized understands that this profession is a mission.”
Both the Treasury and the nurses issued statistics on average wages, which were very different, depending who supplied them. Nurses demonstrated during the day outside hospitals to protest the way the government has been treating them in wage talks.