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Law on minimum wage for nurses ruled unconstitutional

A LAW authorising an increase in the minimum salaries of nurses and midwives is at odds with the Slovak constitution, according to the ruling passed by the Constitutional Court in a non-public proceeding held on June 19.

A LAW authorising an increase in the minimum salaries of nurses and midwives is at odds with the Slovak constitution, according to the ruling passed by the Constitutional Court in a non-public proceeding held on June 19.

The judges accepted the complaint filed by the Office of the General Prosecutor in July 2012, which subsequently prevented the new law from going into effect. It was initiated by the Slovak Medical Chamber, which disputed the constitutionality of the law. Four of the justices, Ľudmila Gajdošíková, Peter Brňák, Milan Ľalík and Rudolf Tkáčik, offered a dissenting opinion, the TASR newswire reported.

The ruling surprised the Slovak Chamber of Nurses and Midwives (SKSaPA), whose representatives said that they do not yet know why the law was deemed unconstitutional.

“It proved again that even the large group of medical workers does not achieve anything in a polite way in Slovakia,” said SKSaPA spokesperson Ivana Kvetková, as quoted by the Sme daily, referring to the fact that the agreement over the law was made without any conflict, and in consensus with the then management of the Health Ministry, as well as the then governing coalition and opposition parties. “If the law is unconstitutional, then all of the highest bodies of the state are responsible,” SKSaPA added, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

SKSaPA plans to discuss its next steps at a meeting. They also want to address the Health Ministry, SITA wrote.

The new legislation, passed by parliament in February 2012, following negotiations between the SKSaPA and the government, was to prevent the salaries of nurses and midwives from falling under a certain level. The minimum starting salary for a nurse or midwife without practical experience was to be at least €640 a month, which would increase over the next three years to reach €666 per month. A nurse’s minimum salary was then supposed to increase every three months until it reaches €928 after 33 years of work experience.

The rules applied to all nurses and midwives, not only those working for state-run health-care facilities. Yet, despite the law coming into force on April 1, 2012, some hospitals and private doctors avoided having to comply with the law by cutting the working hours of nurses or reclassifying them into lower-paid positions.

The prosecutor’s office argued before the court that the law was unconstitutional because it covered only certain health-care workers, nurses and midwives, and that there was a lack of authorised funds available to pay the higher minimum salaries. Moreover, the prosecutor’s office also mentioned an analysis by the Health Ministry, according to which some nurses might have received higher salaries than the doctors working in the same clinic, TASR reported.

SKSaPA responded with a series of protests held in front of parliament as well as the Constitutional Court.

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