Medical workers’ strike called off after last-minute deal

Na Soon-ja, president of the Korea Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU), on Thursday traded a punch with Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol after reaching a deal to avoid the planned strike. [NEWS1]

Korea’s unionized nurses and other health workers called off a strike scheduled for Thursday after a dramatic last-minute deal with the government, averting a void in medical services as the pandemic rages on.

The Korean Union of Health and Welfare Workers (KHMU) said it reached an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Welfare during their last-minute talks which were held from 3 p.m. Wednesday until early morning Thursday, just five hours before their general strike starting at 7 a.m. am thursday.

The union, representing around 56,000 nurses, medical engineers and hospital workers, had previously warned against a strike because no follow-up action had been taken following continued demands for improvement in poor working conditions and heavy workloads. work that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government and the union have held a total of 13 rounds of negotiations in the past three months. Although they reached a general consensus on the big picture, opinions differed on some key costly issues such as expanding public health care resources and infrastructure as well as improving working conditions.

At the union’s request, the ministry agreed to put in place detailed guidelines on the deployment of nurses based on the severity of Covid-19 patients by the end of this month, and to revise the law to pay grants for medical personnel treating contagious diseases, to come into force in January 2022.

They also agreed to establish a ratio of nurses recommended per patient, to increase the number of nurses who train new nurses and to increase the remuneration of nurses working night shifts.

“We have established a base to overcome the exploitation of medical personnel,” the union said. “This will be a new turning point in establishing personnel guidelines for each job to improve chronic personnel shortages and poor working conditions.”

President Moon Jae-in also expressed his gratitude for the withdrawal of the strike plans, saying: “The agreement will serve as an opportunity to strengthen the public health sector and strengthen the health system,” according to Park Kyung- mee, the presidential spokesperson. .

Moon also called on the government to cooperate with parliament and with the union to improve public health care infrastructure and working conditions.

Although the union has reached an agreement with the government, some hospital unions still organized their own walkout on Thursday to demand more staff and better working conditions.

In the capital, unions at Korea University Medical Center and Hanyang University Medical Center have carried out their own strikes. Out of some 2,000 total members of Hanyang, about 100 were known to have participated.

The unions at Korea Anam University Hospital and Korea Guro University Hospital have also gone on strike. The union said about 1,000 of the 3,000 members participate.

Outside the capital, some union members from Chonnam National University Hospital and Chosun University Hospital in Gwangju, as well as from Pusan ​​National University in Busan and Konyang University Hospital in Daejeon also went on strike.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]


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