Health and Social Work
- 21 Dec 2007
Czech Republic: Government proposes extending working hours of doctors
The Ministry of Health has proposed extending working hours for doctors to up to 48 hours a week in order to resolve the labour shortage caused in part by the new Labour Code, which came into force in January 2007. The ministry wants to take the opportunity to pass technical amendments to the Labour Code in parliament in order to make these changes. However, trade unions as well as professional organisations are threatening to protest against such a proposal.
- 12 Nov 2007
Finland: Nurses’ union rejects pay offer and calls for industrial action
The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals has rejected the municipal employers’ pay and working conditions offer. The union is demanding a 24% increase to rectify what it sees as unreasonably low pay. This would amount to increments of between €400 and €600 in monthly pay over the two-and-a-half years that the contract would be in force. The union has announced that it will organise mass resignations from 19 November 2007.
- 15 Oct 2007
Austria: New law sanctions private care services by foreign nationals
For cost-saving reasons, many older people in Austria engage illegal foreign workers for private nursing care at home. In order to legalise this work and to make care services more affordable, the parliament endorsed new legislation in July 2007. Thus, illegally operating care workers may now be employed under the terms of the Private Household Workers Act or be entitled to join the ranks of self-employed nurses. Trade unions have strongly criticised the new schemes.
- 17 Sep 2007
Latvia: Low salaries lead to illegal payments in healthcare sector
Widespread public debate has centred on the issue of illegal payments in the healthcare sector, such as ‘thank-you payments’ paid by patients to medical workers. The Latvian Health and Social Care Workers’ Trade Union argues that the extent of illegal payments in healthcare can only be curbed by making the salaries of healthcare workers more competitive. Plans were underway for a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Health and the trade union in June 2007.
- 20 Aug 2007
Poland: Pay disputes in public health sector escalate
In the summer of 2007, Poland has witnessed one of the biggest waves of social protests in healthcare in many years. Both doctors and nurses employed in public healthcare have clashed with the government over pay rises. The trade unions representing doctors are demanding a sectoral collective agreement providing for pay increases over the coming years. Nurses are also pushing for a substantial pay rise, with their protest action culminating in a demonstration lasting almost four weeks.
- 06 Aug 2007
France: Controversy over agreement on workplace accidents and illnesses
In March 2007, protracted negotiations between trade unions and employer organisations on the issue of accidents at work and occupational diseases led to a protocol of agreement changing some aspects of the existing system. However, the text of the agreement has been criticised by two associations representing those affected by workplace accidents and illnesses, and two of the five trade union confederations have refused to sign it.
- 06 Aug 2007
France: Legality of new recruitment contract challenged
The ‘new recruitment contract’ (contrat nouvelles embauches, CNE) was introduced in August 2005 by the Villepin government. However, significant legal uncertainties still arise concerning the future of the CNE. Furthermore, the government’s figures regarding its impact on employment have been contested in a context of controversy over the method of calculating the unemployment rate and thus establishing current employment levels.
- 30 Jul 2007
Bulgaria: Medical workers threaten strike action in emergency hospital
Since mid-May 2007, medical workers at the General Hospital for Active Treatment and Emergency Medicine in Sofia have been taking part in a series of protests, already lasting 40 days. The workers are demanding higher wages, improved working conditions and better quality equipment. The first warning strike was held on 18 May and consisted of a one-hour work stoppage; however, workers are threatening to go on effective strike if their demands are not satisfied. The duration of the strike action will depend on whether or not the workers’ demands are met.
- 30 Jul 2007
Malta: Industrial dispute in health sector over system for recording attendance
The General Workers’ Union registered an industrial dispute with the Ministry of Health, the Elderly and Community Care regarding disagreements about procedures for recording the hours worked by nursing aides. Procedural changes were agreed in order to ensure consistency among staff working on the same pay scales. However, the ministry allegedly breached this agreement by instructing the nursing staff to continue using the old procedures. The issue was finally resolved after several conciliatory meetings.
- 30 Jul 2007
Slovakia: Strike alert in healthcare sector due to low wages
In the last three years, average wages in the healthcare sector have grown less than in other sectors in Slovakia. Although wages in healthcare rose last year, the trade unions representing healthcare workers are dissatisfied with current wage levels and thus issued strike alerts in May 2007. The Ministry of Health proposed to increase wages in the sector, but considers the trade unions’ demand of a 30% rise as unattainable.
- 02 Jul 2007
Ireland: Nurses secure reduced working hours but no pay rise
A 14-week dispute by nurses over pay and working hours was resolved in May 2007, after the management of the Health Service Executive and trade unions agreed to a compromise put forward by the social partners’ dispute resolution organisation, the National Implementation Body (NIB). The trade unions representing nurses have been successful in reducing weekly working time but pay will remain unchanged.
- 26 Jun 2007
Ireland: New health forum to tackle critical industrial relations issues
The government established a new, high-level health forum in March 2007. The forum aims to help resolve a series of major industrial relations disputes, which are blocking the reform of Ireland’s ostensibly ailing public healthcare system. The Irish Prime Minister expressed his support for the initiative. The forum brings together a diverse range of healthcare workers.
- 18 Jun 2007
Finland: Controversy over proposed pay increase for public healthcare employees
The issue of pay increases in the public sector has emerged as one of the most controversial issues in relation to the impending wage talks. In the last election campaign, politicians largely agreed on the need to raise the pay levels of public healthcare employees. However, economists have warned that the budgetary framework will not allow for significant pay rises for any large group of public-sector employees.
- 04 Jun 2007
Czech Republic: Czech doctors strike in protest against low wages
In February and March 2007, a large number of Czech doctors went on strike in protest against the insufficient payments of the General Health Insurance Company for the treatment of patients. The protest was widely supported in the Bohemia and Moravia regions, despite some criticism from the Association of General Practitioners which considered the action to be counter-productive. Nevertheless, this action may be an indication that further protests will follow.
- 28 May 2007
France: Ban on smoking in public places and at work
Effective from the start of February 2007, the French government introduced a smoking ban in public places like offices, schools and public buildings. Other public spaces such as restaurants, nightclubs and some types of bars have been permitted time to adjust to the new law and can delay applying the order until January 2008. Opinion polls reveal that the majority of employees are in favour of the ban, even though there is some resistance to it from the business community.
- 27 Apr 2007
Hungary: Chamber of Physicians object to government law to ban compulsory membership
In the autumn of 2006, the Hungarian parliament passed new legislation on professional chambers in the healthcare sector, which came into effect from 1 April 2007. While the aim of this regulation is to weaken professional chambers in general by terminating compulsory membership, it is primarily targeted at the Hungarian Chamber of Physicians. The latter has been criticised by the socialist-liberal government for its compulsory membership and opposition to reforms. In response, the Chamber is strengthening its position in relation to interest representation.
- 23 Apr 2007
Italy: New national collective agreement for domestic workers
On 13 February 2007, trade unions and employer organisations reached consensus on a new national collective agreement for domestic workers in Italy. The agreement defines a new professional classification for workers, introduces new regulations concerning working hours and provides for safeguards in the event of illness, while creating a supplementary pension fund.
- 23 Apr 2007
Czech Republic: Government to grant residence permits to selected foreign workers
The Czech Republic is offering selected qualified foreign workers the option of obtaining permanent residence permits after only two and a half years of living and working in the country, compared with the normal period of five years. The project participants will benefit from a 30-day protection period in the Czech Republic in order to find a new job, unless they had lost their previous job through their own fault. Permanent residence is also offered to the participant’s family, provided the participant passes all relevant tests.
- 23 Apr 2007
Czech Republic: Shortage of hospital doctors due to new Labour Code provisions
Amendments to the Labour Code mean that hospitals have less recourse to overtime on the part of doctors and must pay the same rate for work on standby as for standard working hours. The primary aim of the reform was to improve the quality of medical care by ensuring that doctors would not be too tired to work during excessive periods of overtime. Nevertheless, the situation has incurred substantial costs for employers, and some hospitals are negotiating separate agreements with doctors in order to avoid staff shortages.
- 10 Apr 2007
Ireland: Major disputes in healthcare sector
In the context of the forthcoming general election, the Irish government is facing a number of major problems in the healthcare sector, which are also a test of the social partnership system and the current national agreement ‘Towards 2016’. In light of the general elections in May or June this year, the government seeks to establish a special high-level forum to settle the disputes with the organisations representing consultants and nurses in the sector.
- 10 Apr 2007
Czech Republic: Companies receive health and safety awards
In 2006, a total of 14 enterprises met the requirements of the ‘Safe enterprise programme’, achieving recognition for being a ‘safe enterprise’. The programme, which was launched by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in 1996, aims to promote cooperation between employees and company management in improving safety at work.
- 02 Apr 2007
Estonia: Agreement reached on minimum wage increase in healthcare sector
On 25 January 2007, an agreement was reached to raise minimum wages in the health and social work sector by 25%. The negotiations had been protracted and almost culminated in a strike, which was averted through the mediation of the Public Conciliator. Discussions are continuing in relation to other conditions of the collective agreement.
- 02 Apr 2007
Hungary: Unions protest over plan to cut employee benefits in electricity and railway sectors
Trade unions in the electricity sector and at the Hungarian State Railways called strikes for the beginning of February 2007 in response to the government’s attempts to eliminate long established employee benefits. The Ministry of Economy and Transport took issue with the special preferential price of electricity for employees and pensioners in the electricity sector; this benefit is also endangered by the liberalisation of the industry in July 2007. Moreover, the separate healthcare plan for railway employees may be abolished in the government’s radical reform of the entire healthcare system. A two-hour warning strike took place in the electricity sector on 6 February but the planned warning strike in the railways sector has been deferred pending the outcome of further negotiations.
- 19 Mar 2007
France: Unions denounce government conference on employment as an empty gesture
In December 2006, the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, brought together trade unions and employer representatives for a national conference on employment and income. The last such meeting had been held in 1997, during Lionel Jospin’s tenure. While the employers expressed satisfaction with this event, the unions unanimously denounced the government initiative as a ‘public relations’ stunt.
- 12 Mar 2007
Spain: Collective agreement in social work subsector
Bargaining and collective agreements in the economic area of social work – as a specific category within the overall sector of health and social work – are an emerging trend in Spain. The professions associated with social work activities have developed without formal and institutional regulation, though this has begun to be corrected in the last two years. The First Agreement of the Social Work Sector in the Community of Madrid was signed in November 2006, aimed at standardising and improving employment relations and working conditions in this subsector.
- 12 Mar 2007
Spain: Union calls for social dialogue in health and industrial policy
The Secretary General of the General Workers’ Confederation (UGT) claims that major delays have arisen in two important areas of social dialogue, namely those relating to health policy and industrial policy. In this context, the Ministry of Health’s involvement in areas of policy that are politically complex and that have a low media impact is insufficient for the development of the Health Cohesion and Quality Law. According to UGT’s Secretary General, this law involves the need for complex negotiations with the autonomous communities responsible for health policy management in Spain. This is also the case for the various sectors of industry, such as construction, manufacturing, electricity and mining.
- 08 Mar 2007
Austria: Temporary work permits issued to illegal foreign care workers
In Austria, thousands of older people and those in need of care privately engage the services of illegal foreign workers for geriatric nursing and care purposes in the home; this is generally because they cannot afford to use licensed professional services. In the autumn of 2006, the then opposition Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) agreed to temporarily legalise most of these illicit employment relationships, in a move which was welcomed by the social partners as a first step towards a re-organisation of the labour market in the area of private care services. However, the new SPÖ-ÖVP coalition government, formed in January 2007, has appeared divided so far in its proposals about how to draw up a sustainable reform of the private geriatric nursing system.
- 08 Mar 2007
Denmark: Orderlies go on strike at National University Hospital
On 5 January 2007, 300 hospital orderlies at the National University Hospital in Copenhagen went on strike on the grounds that they are obliged to work under a different collective agreement following implementation of the structural reform on 1 January.
- 26 Feb 2007
Romania: Trade unions in healthcare threaten general strike
In an effort to improve the healthcare system in Romania, the Sanitas Federation representing healthcare workers put forward a number of demands to the Ministry of Health to increase wages and the health budget. Although most of the demands made by trade union members in the healthcare system in 2006 were granted, the issue of promoting a normative act approving the negotiated pay rise as of 1 January 2007 had yet to be resolved. The trade union warned that if the government failed to grant the promised increases, the trade union would take strike action at the beginning of January 2007.
- 05 Feb 2007
Norway: Supreme court redefines rules on use of temporary employment
In September 2006, the Norwegian Supreme Court made a ruling in a case involving the use of temporary employment in the form of stand-by duty employment contracts. The ruling reinforces the principle that temporary employees may not fill predictable vacancies in the workforce, and prescribes when so-called substitute or stand-by duty contracts may legitimately be used.
- 22 Jan 2007
Slovakia: Pressure mounts for wage increase in healthcare sector
Healthcare workers have been asking for a wage increase for some time. At the beginning of 2006, doctors went on strike in an effort to get their wages increased. The current government is dealing with the healthcare workers’ demands for a wage increase, and hoping to introduce the increase in 1 January 2007. While some trade unionists are hoping for a 30% rise in wage, this has been refuted by the Minister of Health, as it would put a significant burden on the state budgetary resources. At the same time, the biggest sector representative trade union organisation wants to change from the current remuneration system to a system which guarantees minimum wages in individual healthcare professions.