Minister: Failure of talks means government cannot increase healthcare workers' pay ({{commentsTotal}})

Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE).
Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE). Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

The failure of pay negotiations with Estonia's healthcare sector means that the government cannot raise healthcare workers' pay of its own accorrd and that the supervisory board of the Healthcare Insurance Fund must soon decide how to use the budgetary funds that had been earmarked for pay hikes, Estonia's Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski said on Friday.

"For the Health Insurance Fund, the failure of the talks means that the supervisory board must decide in the near future how to use the €23 million reserved for a pay rise," Ossinovski told BNS. The next meeting of the fund's supervisory board will take place in mid-February.

The minister said that in the absence of agreed-upon minimum pay levels, the government does not have the legal power to raise wages. "We can channel additional funds to the prices of health services, which will increase hospitals' revenue, but hospitals can use this money for other purposes," he explained.

At the core of collective agreement talks is reaching an agreement on health workers' wages and working conditions, and it is a question of the cooperation between employees and employers whether labor relations can be organized on the basis of a collective agreement or not, the minister said. When there is no collective agreement, these relations are based on individual labor law relations and concrete agreements with the employer.

"There is no doubt that the additional funding of healthcare is necessary and the government is making efforts toward this goal," Ossinovski said. "The new government will proceed with the timetable agreed upon at the end of last year, according to which these decisions will be made in the course of drawing up the state budget strategy this spring." The minister added that both he and the prime minister had assured health professionals about this.

As a sign of goodwill, the government had already come up with an additional €10 million to increase the number of cases of treatment and the Ministry of Social Affairs will soon present for consideration plans for doctors' responsibility insurance eagerly awaited by health professionals, Ossinovski said.

The Public Conciliator decided on Thursday to terminate the conciliation procedure in the pay negotiations of the healthcare sector after an agreement failed to be reached.

The Public Conciliator terminated the conciliation procedure between the Estonian Medical Association, the Estonian Nurses' Association, the Estonian Union of Healthcare Professionals, the Estonian Hospitals Association, the Estonian Ambulance Association and the Estonian Association of Family Doctors.

"This means that the parties are now free in their actions," acting public conciliator Henn Pärn told BNS, noting that it would be good if the parties reached an agreement on their own.

According to the public conciliator, the basis for an agreement exists, and if no agreement can be reached between the parties they have the possibility to turn to the conciliator again. "But this round is over," Pärn said.

Healthcare workers rejected the collective agreement offer on Tuesday, saying that they would only agree to sign a collective deal if politicians took on concrete obligations for improving access to medical care.

The associations of hospitals, ambulances and family doctors representing employers likewise rejected the collective agreement offer made by the public conciliator, saying that the funding of the healthcare sector was insufficient.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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