Giving in to nurses’ demands is futile
E DII TO RII A L
Some 1,500 nurses plan to go on strike, again, this time demanding that their qualifications be upgraded to university level recognition in order to be eligible for promotions beyond the current scale of A5-A7, as per the civil servants’ code. Anything beyond that in the entire state sector requires some academic qualification of at least graduate level, while in the education sector there is a clear cut differentiation of duties for holders of Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees.
Ironically, the powerful civil servants’ union PASYDY has called the strike by the PASYNO group as “untimely”, especially as healthcare reform is already underway, paving the way for a full or partial introduction of the National Health Scheme (GESY), possibly by 2017.
The nurses are demanding that their upgrade be secured prior to any restructure and autonomy of state hospitals to independent institutions, for fear of repercussions and potential layoffs if productivity measures kick in.
This would mean a cap on promotions and putting an end to an unproductive system of self-evaluation and pay rises, ultimately leading to unrealistic pensions.
But it is not just that. Unions in all the public sector have realised that the path to a general economic reform also includes introducing efficiency tools, streamlining workflow and improving services, in this case, patient care.
Many of the unionised (and often unqualified) workers in state hospitals or wider government machine, the state-owned telco Cyta and the electricity producer EAC, have secured their jobs through back-door methods, often demanding favours and leverage from their party MPs, with total disregard for productivity levels and, in effect, value for money, in the case of a return on investment for the taxpayers.
In all cases, despite the rhetoric of “defending national wealth” and other patriotic calls, these demands are nothing more than a way to secure present public sector workers a smooth remainder of their career (as they cannot be sacked, by law) right up to pensionable age, to which, too, they disagree in raising.
This government is already more than halfway through its administration, has fallen behind in core reforms, but has succeeded in sailing through a stormy three years, having inherited an economic disaster from its communist predecessor.
With healthcare reform, the introduction of GESY and the autonomy of hospitals remaining at the top of his agenda, Health Minister Georgos Pamborides had better not give in to union and party pressure, even it comes from the ruling Democratic Rally.