Israeli Nurses' Strike Enters Fifth Day as Talks With Treasury Fail

According to the Finance Ministry, the nurses' union signed an agreement in March not to strike until the beginning of 2013, but the nurses say the treasury broke an agreement when it postponed talks due to begin three months ago.

Dan Even
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Dan Even

Another meeting between the nurses and the Finance Ministry ended Thursday night without a breakthrough, failing to end the strike by nurses demanding a 15 percent pay raise and a lower workload.

The Finance Ministry has said it is considering asking the labor courts for a back-to-work order if negotiations with the nurses don't make progress. The strike is now in its fifth day.

According to the ministry, the nurses' union signed an agreement in March not to strike until the beginning of 2013, but the nurses say the treasury broke an agreement when it postponed talks due to begin three months ago.

The next meeting, following last night's talks at the Histadrut labor federation in Tel Aviv, has been set for Monday in Jerusalem. The Finance Ministry said it would give full-time positions to 1,000 part-time nurses, but the nurses said this wasn't enough.

"To have nurses work more shifts isn't a solution," said the chairwoman of the nurses' union, Ilana Cohen. "It's important to raise the basic salary of nurses because nurses are fleeing the profession and there's a shortage."

Meanwhile, waiting times are growing for postponed surgeries because of the strike, as are waiting times for appointments at outpatient clinics and immunizations at well-baby clinics.

The strike affects 28,000 nurses in government hospitals, hospitals owned by the Clalit health maintenance organization and Hadassah University Hospital and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The strike does not include nurses at geriatric and psychiatric hospitals.

Nurses are working on a Sabbath footing, and only emergency surgery is being performed.

Striking nurses protesting on Wednesday, Dec. 5 2012.Credit: Nir Keidar