Updated 6.20pm with AHCWU directives

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses has ordered its nurses to take industrial action over “humiliating” and “demotivating” government proposals during negotiations for a new sectoral agreement. 

The set of directives will impact all public hospitals, with separate directives dedicated to each hospital, with the exception of the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. 

Among the six directives for Mater Dei Hospital, nurses have been asked not to wash patients and refrain from clerical work. 

MUMN-represented nurses at care homes for the elderly have been told not to answer any phone calls or handle paperwork. 

The union's directives had a knock-on effect on another union: in a statement on Friday evening, the Allied Health Care Workers' Union said that it had instructed its workers to not wash any patients unless supervised by a nurse. 

It also directed its members to refuse to do any work that does not form part of their job description, such as taking patients' blood pressure. 

Clashes over sectoral agreement

The MUMN decision to impose sector-wide directives was communicated to its workers in an email circulated on Friday. 

“The ministry for health not only lacks respect towards nurses and midwives but is determined to humiliate and demotivate the whole nursing and midwifery workforce through this sectorial agreement,” the union council wrote.

The government and the MUMN have been in negotiations for a new sectoral agreement since August. However, things came to a head at the start of March when MUMN proposals were disregarded by the government, union president Paul Pace said.  

Concerned by an exodus of nurses to other sectors, the MUMN had proposed a series of allowances geared to convince young nurses to remain in the profession. However, the government responded by saying there was not enough money for such initiatives.  

“With the €200 million or €300 million or with the €400 million given to Steward for ‘investments’, the first victim of this fraud is going to be the nurses and the midwives,” the circular said.  

“The Health Ministry has been always eager to seek a court injunction when the nurses and midwives rightly feel they are being discriminated but then the Health Ministry NEVER took Steward Health Care to court even when it was evident that Steward was not abiding to (sic) any commitment,” the email said. 

Pace told Times of Malta that the government is turning nursing into an underpaid profession and trying to degrade and humiliate nurses.  

The circular that was sent to over 4,000 pointed to government proposals to tie allowances to appraisal reports for nurses and midwives.   

“This implies that while other health care professionals including the medical profession and allied are exempted from appraisal reports, nurses and midwives are not…just to humiliate and demotivate us, more than ever”. 

The government is also insisting on Palm Readers for all nurses and midwives. 

“This is the thanks we get for the efforts we made during the Covid pandemic,” Pace said.  

The MUMN president added that despite efforts to intimidate nurses and midwives, MUMN members have reacted very positively to the directives and are complying.  

In a statement, the PN slammed the government over its "wrong priorities".

It was unacceptable, the party said, that prime minister Robert Abela and Health Minister Chris Fearne did not respect and demotivated nurses, midwives and healthcare professionals.  

It urged the authorities to ensure the best possible working conditions for healthcare professionals. 

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