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Health workers threaten to strike

HEALTH sector employees are again threatening to go on strike unless the government raises their salaries.

"Our trade union will hold a conference in March, and if the Health Ministry's' attitude towards settling this problem does not improve, we could be back to where we were a year ago," said the chairman of the Slovak Trade Union of Healthcare and Social Services (SOZ), Andrej Kučinský, at a news conference on January 29.

The unions are demanding that within four years, doctors salaries must rise to three times the national average wage, now about Sk20,000 a month, while nurses should earn 1.5-times the national wage.

"Legislative changes must be made to reach this level. However, the ministry seems to be doing very little to meet this long-term target," Kučinský said.

He also accused the ministry of making misleading statements on the issue. "An article appeared on the ministry's website in October that its priority is to increase salaries for healthcare employees by 30 percent. Unfortunately, these statements are misleading, as the ministry has shown no interest in doing so," said Kučinský for the SITA news wire.

According to the unions, the Health Ministry told health sector employees they should try to improve their wages this year through collective bargaining. "This is simply passing the buck," said Kučinský, noting that collective bargaining would increase health sector wages by only nine percent as of July 1, which was "unacceptable".

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