Medics reach deal with Health Ministry, cancel strike

The Health care and social workers' union (LVSADA) has reached an agreement with the Health Ministry and won't start the strike which they had prepared for previously, reported BNS Wednesday.

After two-hour talks with the Helaht Ministry on Wednesday the head of the trade union Valdis Keris told journalists that although the industry didn't reach anything above the extra €10m promised for medics' wages in the next year's budget, the union will not be staging the strike scheduled for early 2015 if their demands weren't met.

Keris told LSM's Latvian-language service that the LVSADA had penned an agreement with the ministry stipulating that the average increase in healthcare workers' salaries will not be less than 5%, a bump of 1.5% over the 3.5% promised previously.

According to Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs (Greens and Farmers Union), the ministry and the medics will create a work group that will pan out solutions for the funding needed to raise healthcare workers' wages. In particular, the work group has to come up with a plan to raise medics' wages by mid-2016 when suggestions for the next year's budget are usually handed in.

Valdis Keris said that the union isn't intending to step down from its demand for raising the pay of healthcare workers by 10%, for which €22m are needed. 

The union also objected to all the proposals by the ministry for allocating the €10m, and the work group will be dealing with this matter as well.

About 200 healthcare workers went on strike November 3 by the Latvian parliament, demanding higher pay.

According to the trade union, the government has set the healthcare budget at 3 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, or less than 3.1 percent this year. This is contrary to the World Health Organization and European Commission's recommendations to improve access to healthcare and quality of healthcare in Latvia. The healthcare budgets in EU member states average at 7.3 percent of GDP, while the same figure is about 5 percent of GDP in new member states.

The trade union upholds its three demands: higher healthcare quotas, reducing patients' co-payments, and increasing the average wage healthcare workers by 10%.

The government has named defense, security, healthcare, and education spending as priorities for the 2016 budget.

The Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees is one of medical workers' organizations uniting about 10,000 people employed in the health sector.

Meanwhile, teachers are about to conduct a one-day strike over pay and conditions on Friday, with the participation of at least 22000 educators. President Raimonds Vējonis has called the strike a failure on the part of the government.

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