Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis on Sunday called nurses to a dialogue ahead of a planned indefinite strike on Tuesday.
The nurses, from PASYNO union have a list of demands that includes equalising their qualifications with degree holders and higher wages for entry-level staff. The government has refused saying it would cost the state 40 million euros a year.
In an article published in Phileleftheros, Pamboridis said: “While the Titanic is sinking, rather than focus on the transfer of everyone to a new, safe boat, it does not serve anyone to see that some passengers are upgraded to new cabins.”
He said his ministry was concentrating all of its efforts into completing the first series of bills for hospital autonomy while trying through dialogue with all stakeholders to discuss their transitional conditions but the nurses were not willing to engage.
Nurses, he said, claim the fight is not about money but about acknowledgment and recognition of their profession and their studies.
“The payroll policy a serious state is not determined by degrees, whether they are for three years or four years of attendance, but by the nature of the job and productivity,” the minister said, adding that no one was denying their academic qualifications.
Pamboridis said a decision by the previous government in 2008 to give nurses a blank cheque had led to the current impasse.
“Today our government is being asked to act recklessly yet again by issuing another cheque, this time post-dated, postponing once again the problem into the future but at an entirely predictable annual cost of many millions. We will not go the easy route false promises. These are the attitudes that have led our country into adventures that the public as been asked to pay dearly for,” he said.
“The public, which always pays the price, asks why we cannot reach agreement among ourselves,” he said.
“We need to sit all together, without blackmail and threats, but with sincerity and awareness that what is being played out here is the future of the public hospitals in an NHS environment, and we need to talk without blinkers about everything,” he added.