Nurses union pay talks grind to halt without progress made

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Poster calling for fair pay for nurses Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Nurses pay negotiations have broken down with no substantive result, after an intermediary in the dispute between employers and employees called time on the process.

President of the Estonian Nurses' Association Anneli Kannus said on Friday that: "We are extremely disappointed that the public conciliator did not deal with the nurses' appeal in substance."

"For us, the conciliator's view that the proposals put forward by nurses a year ago do not need to be discussed for the reason that 2023 will soon be upon us, when it will be possible reopen discussions again, remains incomprehensible," she went on.

The union had been holding its discussions with health care sector employers, with the intermediation of the public conciliator.

The union says it is inviting Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center), the head of the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) Rain Laane, and employers' representatives Urmas Sule and Lilian Laatse to sit down together, with a view to solving the issue.

"We expect the minister to take responsibility for resolving the impasse that has arisen in his area of administration. We offer the minister the opportunity to lead the meeting that will be aimed at finding solutions to existing concerns and agreeing on the fundamental principles of the next negotiations. Since a year has already passed since the proposal to start negotiations on the collective agreement was made, solutions need to be sought still before the summer holidays," Anneli Kannus said.

Unions of health care workers and employers at the end of April signed a nationwide collective agreement for 2021-2022 following the proposal of the public conciliator, which would increas minimum hourly wages this year and the next, in line with the projected increases in average salaries.

While most other healthcare workers' representatives have signed up to a deal, nurses' representatives continued to negotiate separately. Following the compilation of a draft collective agreement over a year ago, a group of nurses belonging to the union opted to engage in a distinct round of negotiations from last summer. 

These reached the conciliator in early May and have since drawn a blank.

The nurses union says it was not given a meaningful opportunity to negotiate wages and working conditions, adding the public conciliator recommended signing an agreement that went behind the nurses' backs and despite several requests for the union to be involved.

The union had also wanted to sign an additional collective agreement on pay terms for specialist nurses and professionally trained care workers, which the public conciliator viewed as constituting a new negotiation stage BNS reports, though they had been included in original proposals in June of last year.

The Estonian Nurses' Association is affiliated to the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the European Nursing Council (ENC).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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