Hadassah Hospital Staffers Walk Off Job to Protest Not Receiving Full Wages

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Nurses, administrative and maintenance workers at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem launched a three-hour demonstration Sunday morning, walking off the job to protest not receiving their full wages for January.

The embattled hospital's staffers received only half of their salaries for last month. In addition, they said, benefits including convalescence pay and pension and provident fund allocations have been delayed.

The hospital recently revealed that it has amassed a deficit of 1.25 billion shekels ($360 million).

Hadassah management on Saturday night tried unsuccessfully to persuade the employees' union representatives not to act on threats to step up their labor sanctions.

Following last week's court-ordered stay of proceedings, sources in the management said a proposal was made to pay full wages to employees earning up to 10,000 shekels ($2,860) a month. Their salaries would not be affected going into the future, while employees earning more than that would take a 10 to 15 percent pay cut.

Management also said that if the employees fulfill their threat to walk off the job, or even if they continue operating on an emergency schedule as part of their labor sanctions, the hospital may ask the court to issue an injunction against them.

Employees first threatened to leave their posts over the weekend, after Avigdor Kaplan, the hospital's director general, representatives for the employees and the two court-appointed trustees failed to reach an agreement on Thursday.

The staffers' representatives demanded that Kaplan agree to immediately pay January's salaries in full, before they discuss a recovery plan for the hospital – which includes the dismissal of 520 to 530 employees, or 10 percent of the workforce.

Labor sanctions at Hadassah have prompted the cancellation of 90 percent of the surgeries that take place there daily. Over the weekend, the hospital's corridors and inpatient rooms were relatively empty, while emergency rooms were at 120 percent capacity.

Patients' family members tried to help fulfill some of the nurses' duties. One of them, a man named David who was caring for his father, said he was spending most of his time at the hospital. "For an hour, the nurses didn’t take his blood pressure or temperature," he said. "The nurses are waging a just struggle, but I don’t want to think about what would happen if we left him alone in the hospital."

Hadassah hospital employees striking on Feb. 16, 2014.Credit: Emil Salman

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