Malta’s nursing union will take wide-ranging industrial action starting from Monday 13 March, as a battle with government to extract sectoral concessions and salary increases gets underway.
The MUMN’s 32-page list of demands was met with a short counter-proposal the union branded as “worthless tissue paper”, and said it will not sit down for talks unless it is given a proposal that does not cherry-pick at its demands.
The union has informed members it will be ordering industrial action at the Emergency & Accident Department at Mater Dei Hospital, primary care, maternity and outpatients wards, the Karen Grech and Gozo General hospitals, homes for the elderly and St Vincent de Paul institution, and Mount Carmel mental health hospital. The Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre is excluded from the industrial action.
Directives include: no emergency nurses to work unless minimum staffing of specific E&A areas are met; no participation in elective operations save for oncology, paediatric and life-threatening cases, with no nurse to assist any “major complex surgery” that does not start before 11am; wound care stops by 2pm; no washing of maternity patients or clerical work in the MDH maternity and outpatients wards, as well as KGH and GGH hospitals; no clerical work at SVDP; all washing of patients in elderly homes, and Mount Carmel Hospital, to stop immediately.
MUMN secretary-general Paul Pace said his union has 30 financial proposals, but the health ministry has replied to the union’s demands with two pages and “zero proposals”.
“Not even one new incentive or new proposal in favour of the nurses and the midwives was put forward by the government,” the union council told members in a communication on industrial action.
The union’s proposals include tax incentives on overtime, a six-and-two-third hours on overtime rate, pension incentives, increases in all allowances and new allowances for senior and staff nurses, and salary adjustments for new graduates. “No consideration was given on the hardship, the stress and the challenges, the risks and the added responsibilities which all nurses and midwives pass through on a daily basis,” the union said.
The government has said its counter-offer is a basis for talks and that it does not represent a final offer.
Pace accused the government of showing “no empathy” for the work of nurses and midwives during the COVID pandemic. “Countless nurses and midwives (with their families)… contracted COVID and could have died during their line of work.”
He added that the government’s counter-proposal makes all nursing staff paid less than allied health professionals, who start their own sectorial negotiations next year.
The timing of the actions coincide with the recent court decision on the Steward hospitals concession, which the union raised as a red rag to the profession. “Government pays hundreds of millions to Steward and for businesses, but not for the nurses and midwives who are the backbone of every health service… the two page agreement gives a clear signal that besides having no money for nurses and midwives [government] has no interest to address the nurses’ shortage through the sectorial agreement.”