Health Minister Popi Kanari announced on Friday that she will meet with medical union representatives and members of the state health services organisation (Okypy) next week.

This comes after it emerged that labour groups have serious apprehensions about a proposal submitted to them concerning collective labour agreements.

Earlier, it was revealed that the six medical unions rejected the new financial proposal submitted by Okypy a month after it was initially presented to them and two months after a nationwide hospital strike.

The unions submitted their rejection of the plan to Okypy, sending the organisation an eight-page letter containing notes and objections to the proposed items.

Okypy and medical staff at state hospitals have been at loggerheads for months over collective labour agreements, an issue the organization has been skirting.

In her statement on Friday, amid the growing tension, Kanari said that the unions and Okypy will meet with her on Wednesday, while the organization is expected to submit its proposal on Monday.

“Based on the answers, a joint attempt will be made to create an acceptable proposal for all,” she said.

Responding to a question during a press conference about a private doctor joining the board of Okypy and whether there was a conflict of interest, the minister said the matter is being investigated.

In their letter regarding Okypy’s proposal, the unions made it clear that the granting of salary increases seems to be the red line for them. The union also launched an attack on representatives of the organisation who, as claimed by the unions, gave the impression that the workers demand to become civil servants.

“Our position remains that Okypy, as a public organisation, must implement structured salary scales with defined levels and annual increases, without turning its employees into civil servants, as it artfully attempted to present in a negative way, something we do not understand and cannot accept. The low esteem and satisfaction expressed by a large portion of employees towards the organisation is also transferred to the patients who choose non-state hospitals,” the unions said in their letter.

The unions clearly state that they agree with the introduction of an evaluation system but emphasise the need to create structures in public hospitals, including promotion positions, to allow advancement for all employees.

According to the letter, the unions agree with the introduction of an evaluation system but emphasize the need to create structures in state hospitals, including promotions, to allow advancement for all employees.

“The proposal submitted to us cannot be accepted. Despite this, and in the context of a demonstration of goodwill and belief in good-faith dialogue, which we, as unions, always seek with the employer’s side, we submit to you an attached document with a series of questions that need clarification,” they said.

Regarding the granting of increases based on the financial capabilities of Okypy (as provided for in the organisation’s proposal), the six unions said: “Although it is understandable that any organization needs to operate profitably to make investments and be able to give increments, in the case of a semi-governmental organisation, this approach is very simple. Especially in the case of Okypy, where its respective administration has proven to have made a lot of omissions that have caused financial damage to the organization, these mistakes cannot be passed on to the employees and affect their own earnings. In cases of bad financial results, then the state and, in particular, the health ministry must intervene as absolute owners and shareholders of the organization and financially cover any gaps created by its operation.”

The unions also questioned Okypy in their letter, asking who will decide if the financial results of the company are good or not, and how good the results need to be to provide salary increases.

“If one year the financial situation is not good and no increase is granted, but the next year is extremely good and exceeds the previous one, will the increase exceed 1 per cent?”

The unions also raised issues with the evaluation system proposed by Okypy, even though they agreed with the concept of being evaluated.

In the letter, the unions said that Okypy tied the evaluation to the earnings of the employee, which will cause bribery and interventions with evaluators to receive better scores.

The unions’ counterproposal is that the evaluation system needs to be prepared after a discussion between them and the organisation to see how it can be tied in with earnings.

The unions also took issue with the pay grades Okypy came up with, as they vary drastically from what is already commonplace.

“The costs of the organisation’s specific proposal over a period of ten and/or twenty years must be presented and compared with the proposal submitted by the unions and costed in the context of the February-March 2023 technical committee,” they said.

The unions added: “In a few years, after the possible implementation of the Okypy proposal, there will be no two workers in the organization who receive the same salary.”

Each employee will receive a different salary, and in some cases, younger employees will receive higher salaries than older employees.

The unions and Okypy are set to meet with the health minister in the coming days as the issue between them continues.