From the 8th to the 12th of May, PSI affiliates across the Asia Pacific Region took different forms of action to highlight the lack of decent work conditions for nurses and demand action from governments. From taking selfies and group photos as a form of dissent, to organising webinars, assemblies, press conference and picket protests, unions representing hundreds of thousands of health workers in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania voiced the resounding call: Nurses need decent work, not applause. In these actions, nurses underlined the demand for safe staffing ratios, fair national nursing policies, and fair wages to achieve decent work for the health workforce and to ensure quality health services for the people. (Photos and videos can be viewed at the PSI Asia & Pacific Facebook page and Twitter).
Michael Whaites NSW Nurses and Midwives Association
[To] pay a fair pay and introduce ratios as soon as possible--It’s the only way to celebrate the work that nurses do.”
Social media actions
Nurses and health workers from PSI affiliates in South East Asia actively participated in the social media campaign to celebrate International Nurses Day. In Thailand, nurses from the Memorial Hospital Labor Union held posters with calls for better policies, safe staffing ratios and higher pay. In Malaysia, nurses and health care workers from the Sabah Medical Services Union and the Malayan Nurses Union (MNU) also took selfies in their workstations and in their uniforms to show unity in the call for decent work for nurses. MNU also held hospital level gatherings to commemorate the day.
In the Philippines, PSI affiliates in the health sector have been in the fore front of the campaign to pass a new Nursing Law that aims to improve working conditions and salaries of nurses particularly in private hospitals. In the week leading to May 12, nurses and health workers from the Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW), Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippines Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA) took selfies and group photos in their respective workplaces with their demands for better staffing, higher pay, and a new nursing law.
In Korea, the Korea Health and Medical Workers Union (KHMU) amplified their demand for nurse-to-patient ratio 1:5 by taking protest selfies in social media. The union underscored that in big hospitals, nurses take as high as 47.2 patients. As a result, nurses must work shifts and cannot afford to take weekend breaks. Often, nurses end up skipping meals and they do not have time to take restroom breaks. KHMU also participated in the National Convention of Nurses organised by the Korea Nursing Association. The entire nursing community in the country registered their unity calling on the government to urgently promulgate the Nursing Act.
Webinar on the Health Omnibus Law
To raise awareness among the nursing community on the proposed Health Omnibus Law, Indonesian affiliate, FARKES Reformasi, held a webinar entitled “Dissection of the Health Bill Omnibus Law Cluster of Health Workers and Nurses” on 11 May 2023. The union discussed how the proposed law will affect the nurses and the health care system in general. Additionally, the group also tackled pressing issues of the health care system, the health care workforce and nurses in particular along with the possible drawbacks of the Omnibus Law on Health. The unions reckoned that the bill came about without any process of social dialogue to ensure that voices of all relevant parties such as the health care workforce are considered in drafting the law.
Local gatherings to big assemblies
Extending the spirit of International Labour Day to the International Nurses Day, unions organised local actions to urge hospital managements and governments to prioritise the demands of the large constituency of nurses and nursing personnel in the health care systems.
In Japan, the Jichiro's Health Care Workers Council, held a national executive meeting on May 21 to share information and exchange views on efforts to strengthen regional healthcare systems and improve the working conditions and workplace environment of medical and health workers. As a gesture of solidarity for medical and health workers worldwide, the participants help up an appeal board as a photo action in commemoration of International Nurses' Day.
In India, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation Employees Union (NMCEU), which organises nurses and other health care workers in urban health centres, held a meeting on 13 May to commemorate this momentous day for nurses. The occasion also saw the forging of union-to-union solidarity as Sineva Ribeiro, President of Swedish union, Vardforbundet, addressed the gathering. He shared the similar struggles of health care workers in Sweden and extended solidarity with the Indian nurses’ struggles for secure employment, fair wages and decent working conditions.
In Nepal, the Nepal Health Workers Employees Union (NHWEU) organised small gatherings in different hospitals to celebrate the day and to extend support to the ongoing struggle of the nursing workforce to secure a workplace free from violence and harassment as a condition for decent work. In Sri Lanka, the Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU) organised a meeting that saw participation of around 2,500 nurses and other guests including the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
Strike action and press conference
In Australia, nurses from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association at the St. Vincent’s Private Hospital and the Mater held a strike on International Nurses Day calling on the hospital management to implement safe ratios and fair pay at a time of high inflation and rising cost of living. Union leaders who are nurses themselves lamented they are “constantly pushed to circumstances that are longer safe” due to poor staffing ratios and they are losing lots of nurses to other careers due to rising inflation and lack of fair pay. Beyond the accolades, nurses need respect and recognition for the kind of responsibility they take on every day in “very strange and very bad circumstances.” Michael of Whaites of the NSW NMA extended solidarity in the program and said that the gathering of nurses on IND is an important way of making sure that the hospital management recognise the work of nurses by paying fair pay hikes and safe staffing ratios.
Meanwhile, the Korea Public Service and Transport Workers Union (KPTU)-Healthcare Workers' Solidarity Division held a press conference on 11 May 2023 in front of the President’s office. For over a year, KPTU has been campaigning for safe staffing ratios of nurses. At present, they are campaigning for the National Assembly to pass the Nursing Staff Human Rights Act. However, the National Assembly has delayed the legislative process. The union also shared a letter with its Ministries of Health and Welfare and Labour and Employment demanding a meeting for implementing the recommendations of ILO report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Standards arising from the General Survey: Securing Decent Work for Nursing Personnel. In the spirit of solidarity with nurses and health care workers across borders, KPTU also shared a social media message for the Malayan Nurses Union (MNU).
International Nurses Day this year stood testament to the spirit of workers’ solidarity and unity. Our affiliates actions and voices reiterate the continued struggle of nurses to demand their basic rights. PSI stands with our affiliates in demanding states fulfil their responsibilities towards their health care and nursing workforce. We remain committed to supporting our affiliates in the region in their fight to secure decent work conditions for nurses and nursing personnel. We extend our solidarity to all the health and care unions across the region. FAIR NATIONAL NURSING POLICIES NOW!