Nurses have been told to expect industrial action as of next week, with their union livid at having been “humiliated” by the government's response to sectoral negotiations.

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses informed its members on Friday that it would be declaring an industrial dispute and issuing directives across the entire health and elderly care sectors next week.

Its decision stems from the government’s response to its proposals for a new sectoral agreement. MUMN officials presented health authorities with 37 pages of proposals some months back. This week, the government reverted with a two-page document.

MUMN told its members that the abridged reply came as a “complete shock.”

“MUMN had anticipated that allowances would have to be negotiated but MUMN never expected that a 2 page document be presented with most allowances not even being considered.

“This 2 page document must have broken every world record for the shortest, insignificant document to the Nursing & Midwifery profession world wide,” the union said in an email to members seen by Times of Malta.

MUMN president Paul Pace said that government negotiators had told the union that there were “no extra financial resources” available for nurses and midwives and that it was clear that the two-page document “closed any further negotiations”.

The union plans to call an emergency council meeting next week to discuss the issue and establish what directives MUMN members will be instructed to follow.

It has a wide array of options available to it: directives can range very broadly, from telling members to not do extra work, to ordering full-blown strike.

The directives will apply to all nurses and midwives, including top-ranking ones, with the MUMN warning its members that any grade which acts as a strike breaker will be left out of the sectoral agreement being negotiated.

In its email, MUMN management said the government’s two-page proposal had done away with all union proposals to incentivize existing nurses and midwives to remain in the profession and had also reintroduced an appraisal system for manager-level nurses and midwives.

No other health professionals have allowances linked to appraisals in their sectoral agreements, the union noted.

“After the nurses and midwives risked their lives during the pandemic, they were humiliated by such approach,” union boss Paul Pace wrote. “ Our hopes of concluding a Nursing & Midwifery Sectorial Agreement without resorting to industrial actions, so as not to cause hardship for the patients, were completely shattered.”  

Peter Agius: Money for Steward, not for nurses

PN MEP candidate Peter Agius was among the first to flag the MUMN issue, and contrasted the government’s position with the union to its largesse when granting three state hospitals to private investors.

€300 million had been spent on the Vitals-Steward hospitals deal, he noted, with Vitals CEO Ram Tumuluri getting "a €6 million performance bonus" and former prime minister Joseph Muscat paid €60,000 in consultancy fees “by Vitals”.

“And nurses, doctors, other health professionals and patients get the crumbs left after the insiders are done feasting,” Agius said.

He urged nurses and midwives to attend a PN-led protest to be held on Sunday.

Muscat was paid by Accutor AG, a Swiss firm that was approved to receive payments on behalf of Vitals Global Healthcare, the company first given the lucrative state hospitals contract. 

Tumuluri had a €5 million bonus arrangement included in his contract but has claimed that he did not take that money

The entire deal to give St Luke's, Karin Grech and Gozo General hospitals to Vitals and Steward was annulled by a court last week

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