Collective agreement signed in healthcare sector

In September 2004, after lengthy negotiations involving the public conciliator, a new two-year collective agreement was signed in the Estonian healthcare sector. It provides for total minimum wage increases of 50% for doctors, 56% for nurses and 43.7% for medical carers.

On 23 September 2004, after a long-lasting and complicated negotiating process (EE0409102F), in which the public conciliator was involved (EE0402102F), a new two-year agreement was signed for workers in the healthcare sector. The deal was signed for employers by the Estonian Hospitals Association (Eesti Haiglate Liit, EHL) and for employees by four trade union organisations - the Estonian Medical Association (Eesti Arstide Liit, EAL), the Trade Union Association of Health Officers of Estonia (Eesti Keskastme Tervishoiutöötajate Kutseliit, EKTK), the Federation of Estonian Healthcare Professionals Unions (Tervishoiutöötajate Ametiühingute Liit, ETTAL) and the Estonian Nurses Union (Eesti Õdede Liit, EÕL). The accord ended lengthy negotiations between the social partners in the healthcare sector, during which trade unions had prepared for warning strikes if their demands for increased minimum wages were not met.

The main objective of the new deal is to set the minimum wages for the various categories of workers and to harmonise differences in minimum wages among regions and different types of hospitals. Under the agreement, hourly minimum wages will increase to EEK 66 for doctors, EEK 34 for nurses and EEK 20 for medical carers from 1 January 2005. The social partners have agreed to extend the new agreement to all categories of employees in the healthcare sector. This is a major difference compared with previous agreements, which were not extended to the whole sector (EE0307101N).

The new agreement also differs from its predecessors by having a two-year duration. From 1 January 2006, hourly minimum wages will increase to EEK 75 for doctors, EEK 39 for nurses and EEK 23 for medical carers. This means total wage increases of 50% for doctors, 56% for nurses and 43.7% for medical carers over the coming two years. However, the average wage in healthcare is below the national average wage, so the relatively high growth rates are due to the relatively low initial level of wages.

The agreed wage increases place a total additional financial burden on the government's budget of EEK 360 million. It is planned that extra funds will be obtained from a gradual decline in the compulsory reserve rate of the Health Insurance Fund (Eesti Haigekassa) and from an expected increase in social tax contributions.

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