As hundreds of striking nurses protested outside parliament and the presidential palace on Tuesday, demanding recognition of their qualifications, a meeting of union PASYNO’s leadership with Health minister GiorgosPamboridis only served to entrench the impasse.
One group was deployed outside the palace shortly before 11am while another was outside parliament much earlier.
Amid tight police presence, protesters held placards that read “we demand the respect every nurse deserves” and “when injustice is voted as a law, resistance becomes a duty,” and also chanted “when you sleep Mr. (Health) Minister you’ll see the nurses in your nightmares.”
Tuesday marks a week since they began their indefinite strike primarily in a bid to pressure government to recognise their qualification as a university degree.
This would result in them moving up the pay scale, something the state said cannot be done as it would set the government back some €35 million.
At the presidential palace, police cordoned off two lanes of the avenue but kept the roundabout open.
Nurses sat outside the exit of the palace and left shortly before 12 after unions handed over a letter outlining their request.
Outside parliament, nurses handed over a protest resolution to parliament’s director of publications Georgia Andronikou to pass on to House President Yiannakis Omirou.
But the meeting with the health minister yielded no results, as Pamboridis stood firm in the government’s position that nurses’ pay-scales can only be negotiated as part of broader planning of the National Health Scheme, implementation of which is slated to start in mid-2017.
In a statement after the meeting, PASYNO said that Pamboridis’ proposal requires nurses to waive their current status of employment first, and even then their university-graduate status will not be fully recognised on an equal footing with the rest of the public sector.
“Therefore, the union’s board has decided to continue the indefinite strike, insisting on the justness of the demands it has been making for two and a half years,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, state broadcaster CyBC reported on Tuesday that PASYDY union members – the union of civil servants, including nurses not belonging to PASYNO – are pressuring their leadership to abandon its neutral stance and join their striking colleagues.
The nurses were outside Parliament was because the House finance committee was set to discuss the reform of the public sector. Part of the legislation includes an evaluation form for public sector employees.
“Unfortunately, nurses will be evaluated on form number three which concerns employees that have completed lyceum or post lyceum studies. Consequently, you realise the state remains firm in its stance to degrade the role of nurses, forcing us to be here,” PASYNO spokesman Theodoros Petelis said.
“We continue our strikes and we are outside Parliament because we seek recognition of the profession…our qualification accepted as a university degree because God forbid if it isn’t.”
Petelis sought to stress they want the recognition and not the pay rise.