Israel's National Labor Court Rules Medical Residents' Resignation Illegal

Resignation letters went into effect Sunday, as residents protest collective wage agreement signed between Israel Medical Association and treasury.

The National Labor Court in Jerusalem ruled on Sunday that the resignation of hundreds of resident doctors is illegal, and that they must return to work without delay. The resignation letters of 669 residents went into effect Sunday morning, and hospitals across Israel were bracing to operate on emergency footing.

The residents are protesting the collective wage agreement signed 10 days ago between the treasury and the Israel Medical Association, which they say was signed without consulting them or meeting their major demands.

Medical residents
Medical residents demonstrating in Tel Aviv.Moti Milrod

On Saturday, representatives of the residents said they will accept any ruling by the Labor Court, yet some said that if they are forced to return to work they will submit new resignation letters. Some even announced they are willing to pay a fine and stop working immediately, without giving a 30-day notice as required by law.

Dr. Gidi Stein, head of Beilinson Hospital's Internal Medicine department, said Saturday that in the face of the "bitter cry" of some of the most idealistic and devoted young people in the country, the government, instead of trying to understand their distress, "crushes, vilifies and delegitimizes them." Stein said the Finance Ministry had "stolen the illusion that public medicine is more than just a clause in the budget."

The Health Ministry has ordered hospitals not to postpone essential procedures, such as cancer surgery or dialysis.

Residents taking part in last night's March of the Million reiterated their call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the crisis.