Nurses protest at Haifa University 370.
(photo credit: Hadar Zevulun)
Public health nurses returned to work on Thursday morning after Israel Nurses
Union and the Finance Ministry reached an agreement late Wednesday night following a 17-day strike.
strike ended after the sides agreed to raise nurses' salaries 13
percent. Two days earlier, talks failed over a 12 percent wage increase.
Treasury will increase the salaries gradually over 4.5 years, hiking up
the salaries 3.1 percent per year over the contract period.
Union chairwoman Ilana Cohen said of the deal: “I am satisfied by the
agreement and my nurses are also happy with it," Israel Radio reported.
parties reached an agreement after several hours of talks mediated by
the head of the National Labor Court, Judge Nili Arad.
to Israel Radio, after a negotiations marathon the two sides announced
to Arad that an “historic agreement” had been reached.
Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich welcomed the agreement Thursday morning, but criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's handling of the matter.
"It's good that this this saga has come to an end" Yachimovich said, but added that it was a shame that the nurses had to go through such a tedious process to get there.
"The prime minister is far from demonstrating leadership in this matter, and chose, as per usual, to deal only with matters that were convenient for him, and ignored their cries for a long time," she continued.
"The nurses fought not only for themselves, but for normal public health services in Israel, but Netanyahu did not think this was a worthy goal," Yachimovich stated. "A responsible government is one that listens to distress as it happens and knows how to reach a solution in time."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai also praised the agreement, saying that it is the state's responsibility to know how to appropriately reward its employees.
"The reality in which nurses, who work day and night, did not receive the appropriate compensation, at the same time as the Treasury knew to go above and beyond for other organizations and employees that are less essential - did not make sense," Yishai said.
Kobi Amsalem, responsible for wages and wage agreements in the Finance
Ministry stated that
the monetary increase will "encourage entry into nursing... and bring a
significant period of peace and stability in the health care system -
for the greater benefit of the patients."
He thanked the minister
of finance, attorney general, president of the National Labor Court and
the prosecutor's office, for accompanying the negotiations and helping
to bring the dispute to an end.
Deputy Budgets Director Moshe
Bar-Siman-Tov said the agreement "reflects an appropriate balance
between the need to provide incentives to enter into the profession, and
between the budget challenges to be expected in the near future."
Commenting on the nurses’ agreement, Meretz MK Ilan Gilon said on Thursday that it could have been achieved without "wasted time and low-level mudslinging produced by public relations advisers of the Finance Ministry and [Deputy] Health Minister [Ya’acov Litzman]. It was achievable 17 days ago," he insisted at an elections panel at a high school in Rishon Lezion. "It was a struggle not only of the nurses but of most of the public, who do not receive major financial benefits and can easily be dismissed, carrying the whole burden by themselves."
National Labor Court had not issued restraining orders, as the Treasury
cancelled its original request for them after the court sided with the
nurses, who argued that the Treasury was "not negotiating seriously."
The Health Ministry left the whole labor dispute to the Treasury to negotiate and make statements to the public.
strike ended just in time, as health experts worried that if it
continued for any longer, tens of thousands of operations and other
medical procedures would be postponed and disease outbreaks could
Since the sanctions began by 28,000 nurses in hospitals
and community health facilities, vaccinations of infants, schoolchildren
and adults have not been carried out. The Israel Pediatrics Society
warned that thousands of babies and toddler have not received shots
against whooping cough, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A and B, polio,
diphtheria, tetanus and other diseases. In addition, the Health
Ministry’s district health offices have also not given travellers