Healthcare workers in dozens of departments of seven academic hospitals went on strike this Tuesday. They have been running a so-called Sunday service since midnight. That means that plannable care has been postponed all day. Emergency assistance is provided. Employees of the academic hospitals in Amsterdam (VUMC and AMC), Leiden, Utrecht, Groningen, Rotterdam and Maastricht stopped working for 24 hours in order to enforce better working conditions.
The reason for the strike is the difficult collective labor agreement negotiations between the trade unions and the employers’ organization NFU. The final offer that NFU made earlier this month only called for a pay increase for nurses and doctor’s assistants. The trade unions FNV and CNV Zorg did not agree with that offer, after which the unions announced a strike.
The willingness of healthcare workers to take action differs from hospital to hospital. At Maastricht UMC 31 departments took part in the strike, at Erasmus UMC in Rotterdam there were three. A tour of the participating hospitals shows that it is difficult to give an indication of the number of healthcare workers participating in the demonstration, but FNV speaks of “thousands”.
Other departments also affected
Deferred care is also difficult to measure, because many hospitals already anticipated when the strike was announced, for example by not planning operations on the strike day. Despite this, the participating hospitals had to reschedule at least dozens of operations that had already been scheduled. The strike was also felt outside the participating departments, because patients often have to deal with different departments at the same time. “Our puncture clinic is closed and if patients first have to go there for another appointment, it can’t go through either,” says a spokesperson for the UMC Groningen.
At the LUMC in Leiden, where 23 departments were running at a slower pace, participating healthcare employees gave substance to the campaign in different, playful ways. Some traveled to the helicopter deck with patients, others played sports or drank coffee with patients—something for which, according to the health care workers, there is otherwise little time.
The agreements laid down in the collective labor agreement for academic hospitals are made for the nearly 80,000 employees of academic hospitals. On October 26, a new strike for teaching hospitals was announced by the unions, but it is not yet known which hospitals will participate.