Doctors threaten to strike over proposed reforms

Doctors threaten to strike over proposed reforms

Union head calls on Finance Ministry to abandon unilateral steps and engage in serious talks with medical personnel

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

FILE: Dr. Leonid Eidelman at a protest ahead of a doctors strike in 2011. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
FILE: Dr. Leonid Eidelman at a protest ahead of a doctors strike in 2011. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Doctors will drop their stethoscopes and go on strike if the Treasury takes unilateral measures to lower their salaries or change working conditions, the head of Israel’s medical workers union threatened Thursday.

Union head Leonid Eidelman wrote in a letter to the Finance Ministry that the Treasury was damaging doctors’ rights and working conditions.

“Of late we’re witnessing recurring attempts of employers to act unilaterally, while announcing drastic future changes which are planned by the Finance Ministry, Civil Service commission and Health Ministry,” Eidelman wrote.

On Wednesday, the Finance Ministry released its budget plan, including sharp budget cuts aimed at lowering the nation’s deficit.

In addition to other proposed economic reforms, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Thursday, the Finance Ministry wishes to limit the terms of doctors serving as department heads at the public hospitals. New regulations would also severely limit the ability of hospitals to accept donations, which provide much of their income.

If the ministry “doesn’t change its one-sided conduct and reverse its intent to implement unilateral changes in the doctors’ work agreement,” the medical union will “have no choice but to use all means at our disposal to safeguard the doctors’ rights,” the union head warned.

Doctors went on strike for several months in 2011, virtually shutting down the country’s health system as they protested for better pay and work conditions.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said no strike would deter the government from passing wide-ranging economic reforms “for the good of all Israel’s citizens.”

The statement came after airline workers agreed to go back to work after picketing over a deal to open up Israel’s airports to more foreign competition.

On Tuesday night Finance Minister Yair Lapid described the outline of his financial worldview. “What you are seeing is not just [budget] cuts, not just slashes, and [an increase in] taxes and transfers of funds from one ministry to the next. What you are seeing — and this will become clearer over time — is a path, a clear, decisive path, with one goal: to put the working person at the center of the Israeli economy.”

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