Four months ago, the Geneva University Hospitals, HUG (Hôpitaux universitaires de Genève) took a unilateral decision to increase daily working time of operating theatre nursing assistants from 8 hours to 10 hours. With the support of their trade union SSP, the workers mobilised against the management decision and in November they will return to their usual 8-hour day.
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Management took its decision without any prior consultation with the workers. The union wrote several letters to the hospital management asking for an end to the new conditions and to begin discussions, with no results. However, the nursing assistants demonstrated outside the hospital on 11 September and handed in a petition asking for a return to the 8-hour day. After three negotiation sessions, management agreed to a return to the previous hours. The nursing assistants in outpatient surgery, on whom the extra hours had been imposed over a year ago, also benefited from the action – their working time will also return to 8 hours per day.
Nursing assistants are an example to all Geneva University Hospitals staff - they have ensured the protection of their health and working conditions, and especially shown that even when management takes such a decision, there is always room for negotiation. This is a testament to the truism that when we dare to fight, we dare to win.
Reacting to this victory of the operating theatre nursing assistants, Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary, said:
PSI is very happy with this development. We commend the workers and their union, SSP. And the ultimate beneficiaries of this step in the right direction by the HUG management are people and communities serviced by the Geneva University Hospitals. Without effective staffing levels, quality of healthcare would be compromised. Increased employment of health workers and not increased working time for staff is the way forward to safeguard the standard of health services that Switzerland is reputed for. And there is a growing consensus globally that decent job creation towards a sustainable health workforce is imperative for inclusive development. The World Health Assembly’s resolution to this effect last May also upholds the central importance of concerted social dialogue for achieving the addressing the shortfall of health workers across the world. Thus, as PSI welcomes the positive step taken by the HUG management subsequent to negotiations with the union should be a first step towards further social dialogue with the intent of creating more decent jobs which are very much needed now, with the ongoing expansion of the hospital’s in-patient facilities.