The Finance Ministry and the National Nurses Union on Thursday signed an agreement to settle wage disputes that prompted the latter to go on strike for over two weeks.
The agreement guarantees that nurses will receive a raise commensurate to 13 percent of their salary. Payment of the salary increase will be distributed over the course of four and a half years, and 1% of the increase will be paid out to particular nursing sectors.
After a seven-hour negotiation marathon the two sides announced to National Labor Court President Nili Arad that they had come to a “historic agreement” that would improve wages for nurses and bring them back to work. Both sides thanked Arad for the exhaustive mediation work that brought the sides back to the negotiating table after days of impasse.
National Nurses Union chairwoman Ilana Cohen reportedly had to convince the union representatives to agree to the deal, and some nurses were dissatisfied with the arrangement after it had been signed.
“There are some who do not think this is enough,” a veteran nurse told Ynet. Cohen, however, was content. “I am satisfied by the agreement and my nurses are satisfied by it, too. It needs a little explanation and it will be alright.”
“I happy for all of Israel that the nurses are returning to work,” she said.
The Finance Ministry’s Director of Wages, Kobi Amsalem, said he was glad a good deal was signed and that it was done “proportionately and in the spirit of the times.”
“It is a monetary increase for the nurses, and we hope that this will improve the wages of the younger employees and encourage entry to the profession. It also helped solve the problems, and whosoever works more will be paid more,” he said.
Striking Israeli nurses called off talks with the Finance Ministry on Tuesday, after the sides were unable to reach a breakthrough despite reports that an agreement was imminent.
Throughout the 17-day strike, nurses have been working on a truncated “Shabbat schedule,” with bare-bones staff at hospitals and HMOs. Only essential services, procedures and surgeries have proceeded as scheduled.
The strike resulted in an estimated cost of millions of shekels to Israel’s health care system, according to Ynet. During the two and a half weeks that the nurses refused to work, 9,000 surgical operations were canceled, as were 17,000 home visits for the elderly, 110,000 infant vaccinations, 55,000 school vaccinations, and 5,000 preventative cancer tests.