Israel Nurses Union chief Ilana Cohen said at the end of the first day of
sanctions on Monday that they will continue them until the Treasury decides to
be “more generous,” such that nurses will be attracted to the profession and
willing to do their difficult work.
The nurses will continue to work
according to a reduced Shabbat schedule on Tuesday, except those at the Maccabi
and Leumi health funds, who are not represented by the Histadrut.
are offering us NIS 100 more for a long night shift,” she told The Jerusalem
on Monday night before going into 7 p.m. talks with senior Treasury
“It is not enough,” she said. “Who will do a night shift for
that?” Cohen also castigated the Treasury for constantly postponing negotiations
with the nurses, whose wage contract expires in January and who were promised
that talks would begin in September.
But then, the Finance Ministry said
that elections were coming and that decisions could not be made until a new
government is formed.
Treasury wage officials said that if Cohen were
“flexible,” progress in a new wage contract could be reached even before the
election on January 22. They added that the Treasury has allocated more money to
increase the number of new nursing students from 1,190 in 2008 per year to
approximately 1,500 today. It also gave scholarships, rental assistance and
ensured employment during their working life.
But they conceded that they
will not immediately ease the serious shortage of nurses in the hospitals and
the community. With a bachelor’s degree in nursing and working 176 hours a month
including shifts, a nurse with a minimum of two years’ experience could earn a
gross monthly salary of NIS 11,000, the Treasury says.
The Treasury is
willing to give more money to hospital nurses who do night and weekend shifts
than to community nurses who do not do shifts, but Cohen insists that all get
the same increase.
In an official statement, the Finance Ministry said
the nurses’ strike was “illegal and unjustified.”
“The nurses union was
offered significant proposals, but apparently, its members decided to strike in
any case at the expense of patients. They promised not to strike at least until
the end of December,” the ministry said.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon charged
that the Treasury “rejected the nurses time and again and ignored agreements it
had signed with them. They had no choice but to apply sanctions.”
nurses are protesting not only against inadequate wages but also the number of
nurses employed – at a rate at the bottom of OECD rankings.
Forum for the South offered its support for the “nurses’ justified struggle but
is worried about harm to patients in the South.”
The forum called for an
immediate solution of the crisis along with long-term planning of nursing
manpower and reducing the health gap between the Center and the
Hadash MK Dov Henin attacked the “lack of intervention” by
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is formally health minister, in the
nurses’ dispute and called for recognizing nursing as a “preferred profession”
with special benefits.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who is
leaving negotiations to the Treasury, said yesterday that while he had sympathy
for the nurses, he agreed with the initial Finance Ministry position that
nothing substantial could be accomplished until after the upcoming election.