Court upholds Steward Health Care’s bid to stop nurses’ union industrial action

Court upholds Steward Health Care prohibitory injunction blocking industrial action ordered by MUMN over employment of foreign nurses at Gozo hospital

A court has upheld a prohibitory injunction requested by Steward Health Care to block industrial action planned by MUMN
A court has upheld a prohibitory injunction requested by Steward Health Care to block industrial action planned by MUMN

Updated at 7pm with MUMN's reaction

A court has upheld a warrant of prohibitory injunction requested by Steward Health Care against the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses to stop planned industrial action over the US company’s decision to employ foreign nurses at Gozo hospital.

The issue revolves around lamentations by the nurses’ union on 12 June over Steward having employed foreign nurses at Gozo General Hospital (GGH), while Gozitan nurses working in Malta were waiting to be transferred to GGH.

The union had intended to issue directives to its members, but this was stopped two days later after the court provisionally upheld a prohibitory injunction filed by Steward. The court issued its decree on the matter today.

In a statement, Steward said that they welcomed the court’s decree and believed that the decision would ensure that health services in Gozo remained unaffected. “The decision is in the best interests of its patients and the Gozitan community that it serves,” Steward said.

The company noted that the court decree found that the transfer of Gozitan nurses to GGH did not depend on Steward, but required the authorisation of the Health ministry.

Steward highlighted that the court said that nurses couldn’t be moved from Malta to Gozo before 25 June, two weeks after MUMN had said it intended to take industrial action. It also noted that on the day the industrial action was called, Steward had communicated with the union that it had not received [from the Health Ministry] an indication of when Gozitan nurses would be released.

“The court also observed that Steward Malta officials testified most clearly that they had no problem to engage Gozitan nurses and to transfer foreign workers to Malta,” Steward added.

MUMN insists foreign nurses should be replaced by Gozitan nurses

In a reaction to the court decree, MUMN insisted that the foreign nurses recruited by Steward should be replaced by their Gozitan counterparts.

"It is clear to MUMN that the  Courts upheld the mandatory injunction of Steward health Care regarding the foreign nurses working in Gozo General Hospital (GGH) due to the fact that the transfer of nurses from Malta to Gozo falls under the responsibility of the Ministry Of Health and does not fall under the remit of Steward Health care," the union said.

"When the mandatory injunction was issued, although the process for the transfer of nurses from Malta to Gozo had initiated from the Health Ministry, the transfer process was not yet completed. That is why the mandatory injunction was upheld by the Ono. Justice Dr. Toni Abela. The scenario now has completely changed since as from 1July 2020, ten Gozitan nurses were transferred to GGH but Steward Health Care retained the foreign nurses in GGH to this very day."

MUMN said it would keep insisting and fighting that there should never be any foreign nurses working in Gozo whilst there are still Gozitan nurses working in Malta.

It said it would be requesting an urgent meeting this week to resolve the issue. "If such foreign nurses are retained in GGH, MUMN will not hesitate to re-issue directives on this regard once again," it said.

"It is evident that even now with the transfer of Gozitan nurses being completed, Steward Health Care broke the agreement and the practise of replacing the foreign nurses by the Gozitan nurses. MUMN would like to make it clear that it will not rest until all foreign nurses are replaced by the Gozitans."