Nurses and midwives on strike: 4,000 start industrial action

Nurses' union orders widespread industrial action as it claims government is ignoring pleas for a decent sectoral agreement • GWU forbid its members to perform midwifery and nursing duties

File photo
File photo

Updated with GWU statement at 1:06pm and PN statement at 1:28pm

4,000 nurses and midwives have gone on strike, following five pages of directions given by the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses.

The directions distributed by MUMN were primarily issued in connection with the sectorial agreement connected to the implementation of the EVS, appraisal reports, and robotic drug dispensing.

They were distributed to all public hospitals in Malta, including Mater Dei Hospital, Mount Carmel Hospital, Primary Care Department, Karin Grech Hospital, Gozo General Hospital, St Vincent De Paul Hospital, and senior homes.

With the strike in full swing, patients are starting to hear about cancelled treatments, as the measures are expected to influence list cancellations, outpatients, and casualty performance.  

Ministry for Health is lacking respect for nurses and midwives, MUMN President Paul Pace said when announcing the industrial action on Friday.

These became evident for the union, after months of negotiations between them and the Ministry for Health.

“The Ministry seems determined to demoralize and humiliate the entire nursing and midwifery workforce with their latest sectorial agreement,” Pace added.

According to MUMN the Permanent Secretary's office has been using scare tactics, regularly quoting court sentences to intimidate nurses and midwives into following their directives. 

Pace referred to an article published by MaltaToday, which reported the nurses’ union demanding over €130 million in allowances, tax and pension.

“An unknown Government official/s  purposely leaked high estimates of the MUMN’s proposals to a leading newspaper so as to bring public opinion against the nursing and midwifery workforce.”

Such leaks, breaking all confidentiality, were never done before, according to Pace. This proved to the union that all work done for patients and the huge risk of life during COVID are irrelevant and not appreciated by the Ministry and by the office of the Permanent Secretary.

The MUMN is calling on all nurses and midwives to unite in the face of the government's counter-proposals as MUMN continues to negotiate for “better working conditions and respect for the profession.”

MUMN directives

At Mater Dei Hospital Out-Patients Department, nurses have been instructed not to answer any phone calls or take messages from clerks and supporting staff. Patients in waiting rooms are also not to be called.

Meanwhile, at Karen Grech Hospital, all washing of patients by nurses has been ordered to stop, with the exception of patients with several indwelling devices. Nurses and midwives are still allowed to dress wounds. Additionally, the bed count in wards has been reduced to 22 patients.

At Gozo General Hospital, nurses have also been ordered to stop washing patients, except in the ITU/CCU and for patients with indwelling devices. They are also prohibited from going out to do errands or transfer patients. 

Charge Nurses and ward nurses are not allowed to sign for deliveries to the ward, including food trolleys, supplies, pharmacy items, disposables, and more. Furthermore, Charge Nurses are not to attend their office to perform any Senior Nursing Manager duties, and clerical work has been suspended.

Some demands being made by MUMN

MUMN has registered a dispute once again and will not attend any further meetings unless the government accepts the following proposals:

  1. No form of an appraisal report is to be included in the government’s counter-proposal
  2. The Salary restructuring included in the MUMN proposal has to be included
  3. There has to be no robotic or EVS (Palm Reader)
  4. The one-year interval on the 6.6 hrs extra to come into effect from 1st  January 2023
  5. CPD has to be with the €800 bonus as one time only for MUMN to accept the €1165 and a guarantee in writing that other professions will not receive more
  6. All MUMN proposals such as tax credits on overtime, pension schemes, on-call, meal allowances, etc are to be included in the government’s counter-proposals
  7. All allowances are to include the nurses and midwives in all grades including Staff Nurses, Midwives, Senior Staff Nurses, and Senior Midwives, and not just from Charge Nurses upwards as is continuously being proposed by the government.

GWU forbid its members to perform midwifery and nursing duties

General Workers Union says its members shall not perform any duties of midwives and nurses following MUMN’s directives.

The GWU declared this dispute and industrial action for health care workers in entities under the public health sector as well as active ageing, in response to MUMN nurses and midwives going on strike on Friday morning.

“No health care workers, members of the GWU, shall perform any duties of midwives and nurses who are following the directives of industrial actions given by another trade union,” GWU declared.

According to the union, this is being done to protect its members from the consequences that GWU's directives could have on them.

These directives apply only to GWU members who work within entities under the public health sector as well as active seniority.

‘Robert Abela finds money for himself, but not for health professionals’ - PN

The PN claimed after 4,000 nurses and midwives went on strike that Robert Abela's government had the wrong objectives.

"Robert Abela and his friends can support themselves, but not the nurses, midwives, and health professionals," the PN explained.

The Nationalist Party insisted that the State appreciates the efforts of these professionals by ensuring that they are provided with the greatest possible working conditions.