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Doctors, government haggle over pay

The Medical Trade Unions Association (LOZ) representing protesting hospital doctors has said it considers the government’s offer of an average proposed pay rise of €300 per month to be too low. However, agreement was reached over the LOZ’s other three demands at a marathon meeting between union representatives and Prime Minister Iveta Radičová (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ)) and Health Minister Ivan Uhliarik (Christian Democratic Movement (KDH)) on Wednesday, November 23.

The Medical Trade Unions Association (LOZ) representing protesting hospital doctors has said it considers the government’s offer of an average proposed pay rise of €300 per month to be too low. However, agreement was reached over the LOZ’s other three demands at a marathon meeting between union representatives and Prime Minister Iveta Radičová (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ)) and Health Minister Ivan Uhliarik (Christian Democratic Movement (KDH)) on Wednesday, November 23.

The continuing deadlock over pay means that more than 2,000 doctors are still due to leave their jobs on December 1 according to the resignation notices they submitted en masse in late September. "We have found accord in most, I dare say, factually, in all requirements apart from salaries," Radičová announced after the meeting.

However, the LOZ wants more than the proposed pay rise. Radičová added that the representatives of trade unions were not authorised to accept the government's offer but wanted to debate it on Thursday. "We have agreed that they debate this proposal within their organisations; and I suggested that the question of a potential agreement be resolved on Friday," Radičová said, as reported by the SITA newswire, adding that the government wants to settle the issue.

Trade unionists also expressed a desire to resolve the dispute. "It is in our interest that doctors stay in hospitals after December 1 ... No other option than an agreement is possible and we will seek it," LOZ head Marian Kollár stated. The prime minister and the health minister reiterated that the state cannot afford to increase the salaries of doctors by more than €300. The government has allocated €34 million for this purpose. "Any additional rise would be irresponsible populism, and this government really cannot afford it," Uhliarik said. Kollár countered that doctors’ salaries were terrible and questioned the adequacy of the increase offered to them.

On Wednesday, President Ivan Gašparovič issued an ultimatum to the protesting hospital doctors: either they come to terms with Uhliarik by Saturday, or he will ask the government to declare a state of emergency. "The doctors will then have to come to work," the president announced after meeting union representatives, the minister and representatives of hospitals. Gašparovič said he believes this will not happen and that doctors and the minister will come to an agreement. He promised trade unionists that a bill to cancel the public hospitals’ transformation will be submitted, while an increase in salaries could also be included in legislation. According to the LOZ, as of the end of September this year 2,411 doctors had filed resignation notices in 34 hospitals across Slovakia. Since then about 400 of them have withdrawn their resignations. Altogether, 7,500 doctors work in public hospitals in Slovakia. The LOZ has set out four demands on the government: for the Labour Code to be observed, for the system of health-care funding to be changed, for the transformation of hospitals into joint-stock companies to be stopped, and for the wages of health-care employees to be increased.

Source: SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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