The Government of Portugal, in a decision with few precedents in 40 years of democracy, will force surgical nurses to work, after months of intermittent strikes They have postponed more than 8,000 operations since November.
Of the hundreds of stoppages that have occurred and are in the last year in all sectors of the civil service, none has had as many practical consequences as that of surgical nurses. Only 600 of a collective of 40,000 have managed to delay thousands of operations in hospitals. In this week another wave of strikes began in six hospitals in the country, which tomorrow will be extended to nine, and will continue until February 28.
The Council of Ministers held Thursday calls for a law that has only been invoked three times since 1974 and always to endon strikes by TAP pilots, the semi-public airline. This rule can only be applied in "particularly serious circumstances", when the minimum services are not guaranteed, now the Ministry of Health must indicate the minimum number of workers necessary to ensure the public service as well as the duration of this exceptional work regime.
On Friday the prime minister, António Costa, already announced that his Government was going to resort to the legal concept of the "civil requisition", in short, the obligatory nature of going to work. "They are wild strikes that seek simply to attempt against the dignity of the sick, against the National Health Service and are absolutely illegal." In a country extremely respectful of strikes, where it is very rare for minimum services to be approved, this government resource is exceptional.
One of the promotoras of the strike is Lucía Leite, president of a new union of nurses, ASPE, apart from the classic centrals, which devised these 'surgical strikes' – for the place where they are made and for their concretion – and also a new form of resistance box, the crowdfunding. They have collected more than 700.00 euros through anonymous donations, with an average of 20 euros per donor, according to their accounts. The Socialist Party, however, will demand that all donors be identified.
The nurses demand that the 2009 law be reverted, when the career had five categories and not as now that it only has one, for which the base salary is the same as the first day of work than 30 years later. They also demand more personnel, salary increases and retirement at 57 years.
In December, the new Minister of Health, Marta Temido, was released calling the surgical strike "cruel". There were minutes for the response of the president of the College of Nurses, Ana Rita Cavaco: "Cruel is having 40 patients per nurse; cruel is to have 4.2 nurses per thousand inhabitants when the OECD average is 9.3 ".
Time has deteriorated the relations between one and the other. The director of a hospital has denounced that the toilets do not fulfill the minimum services and the unions refer to the pressures against the strikers by the Ministry. And to further complicate the situation, the president of the College of Nurses said that doctors need more to nurses than vice versa.
The government's decision will be appealed by the unions because they consider that the rights of the workers, enshrined in the Constitution, are being violated.