State nurses unions got what they have been asking for since 2011, a promotion and a pay raise for their members holding advanced degrees, after President Nicos Anastasiades agreed to their demands.
The decision was announced by Health Minister George Pamboridis on Friday, following a highly anticipated meeting between Anastasiades and the two state nurses unions, Pasyno and the nursing branch of Pasydi.
Pasyno nurses, who have been threatening to go on strike if their demands were not met by early March, finally heard from the president that their request to move the basic pay grade from A5 to A8 was fair and doable. This would bring the starting minimum salary for a state nurse to €2,100 per month.
But the government will now have to come up with an extra €35 million, money which Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said they don’t have readily available.
The decision will be implemented in stages, according to media sources, where all nurses holding advanced degrees, who are currently working in state hospitals, would move up on the pay scale. Pasyno representatives said they accepted the plan in stages, while Pasidy officials said they wanted the pay raise take hold immediately.
But state hospital autonomy will move forward without delay, according to the preliminary agreement. This means that nurses who sign up for autonomy will move up the pay scale automatically, while state nurses who will choose to remain civil servants, at least for now, will be eligible to move up within the state system as long as they also hold advanced degrees.
While agreeing to the state nurses demands, President Anastasiades took the time to emphasise during the meeting that structural changes within the system are required, so that hospitals can be more productive, functional, and provide a healthy environment for medical professionals.
State nurses had been promised by the previous administration that they could get promotions if they went back to school for additional courses leading to an advanced degree, something that the union has been demanding since 2011. But the health minister, who is pushing forward with health reform, had offered incentives for those state nurses who would choose to work in a decentralised public hospital system.
Pasyno initially rejected the incentives last year and threatened to strike again in March 2017, exactly a year after their latest strike in 2016, unless the government at the very top made their position clear and agreed to a pay scale upgrade.
The decision also revealed a rift between the two nurses unions, with the more combative Pasyno group accusing Pasidy of not fighting hard enough while now basking in someone else’s glory.
The health minister, who had been at odds with Pasyno, now has to work the decision into his planning. But the main point is that autonomy for state hospitals, which Pamboridis repeatedly described as crucial to health reform, can now go forward.