Legality of doctors' strike in question

Medics say they will go on strike in the middle of May to pressure the government into finding additional financing for health care. Estonian law prohibits political strikes, and work stoppages are only allowed as means to solve labor disputes. The latter does not exist as such at this time.

„The strike planned by medical workers has no connection to the collective labor dispute act,“ Public Conciliator Meelis Virkebau said. He said that the current situation does not include a traditional collective labor dispute between employers and employees, which is why there is no reason for the conciliator to get involved.

„The planned strike could be classified as a so-called political strike that is something our legislation does not regulate,“ Virkebau said. Secretary General of the Estonian Medical Association Katrin Rehemaa said that medics have gone through conciliation procedure with the conciliator (Henn Pärn at the time – ed.) who closed the matter with his decision in early February.

She explained that the law obligates the sides (medical workers and hospitals – ed.) to continue negotiations during the strike. „If that is the law, it is definitely what we will do; however, the negotiations could prove very short,“ she added. The doctors' representative said that while the public conciliator is free in his utterances, the May 15 strike can only be deemed illegal by the courts.

Rehemaa said that Estonian law allows strikes as means of making professional demands. „We want health care financing to be on a level where medics could do their job properly and treat patients as it should be done. It is a very professional demand,“ Rehemaa found. Rehemaa suggested people who plan to see the strike as political would do well to look up the positions of the International Labor Organization or consult with lawyers.

According to Rehemaa, strikes fall under the collective labor dispute act, which is what the medics are basing their action on. „However, there is still time, as strikes need to be announced two weeks in advance,“ she added.

Head of the Estonian Confederation of Trade Unions Peep Peterson said that political strikes are not allowed in Estonia. „The Supreme Court has found that the state has the right to limit the right to strike,“ he said. Peterson added, however, that restrictions on political strikes are not common in the Nordic countries. Such strikes are allowed in Finland for example. „We currently lack good grounds on which to demand equal strike rights with Finland,“ he admitted. Peterson added that strike limitations are admissible in international law.

„I'm convinced that should we see a strike in the medical sector, it will be about salaries, not politics,“ the chairman said. While the demands of medical professionals are political, Peterson believes the strike can still be tied to working conditions, salary in other words, in which case the stoppage would be legal. „In the end we know the background holds major political questions on which it depends whether the employees will sign. However, the strike will not be political so much as a means to seek resolution of salary claims,“ Peterson said.

The union chief said that official notice needs to be given two weeks before the strike, and in this case to the Estonian Hospital Association. „Provided my information is correct, the government aims to agree on long-term financing plans by that time (May 15 – ed.),“ Peterson said. He added that therefore all prerequisites for a long-term agreement on health care financing are there. „It is probably also a tactic or a clever trick to say the strike will begin on May 15. The government can still make an effort and prevent it from taking place,“ Peterson said.

While the state can limit the right to strike, Peterson does not believe it will take that road. „As life has shown medics to be very responsible and able to help critical patients, of which they are still capable, the state has no reason to intervene. I don't think it will,“ Peterson said.

The previous major strikes in Estonia took place five years ago when a three-day teachers' strike and the confederation's strike against amendments to the collective agreements act coincided in 2012. Medics went on strike for 25 days in the fall of the same year. A countrywide strike was held in 2009 when people protested against expedited entry into force of the labor contracts act. Other major strikes have been held by transport unions. „These mostly concern specific companies, whether GoBus or ATKO,“ Peterson said.

Head of the Estonian Hospital Association Urmas Sule did not want to comment on a possible strike as the association has received no official warning as the representative of employers. „All I know about a strike is what I've read in the media, which is why I do not believe it proper to comment,“ he said.

Hanneli Rudi
Legalityofdoctors'strikeinquestion
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
1 view in november
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
Coalition partner the Social Democratic party (SDE) has announced its top riders for the March 2019 elections in Estonia's 12 electoral districts, though its full list will be confirmed in December, the party says. There are no real surprises on a well-stocked list which includes the recently-attracted Indrek Tarad, currently still an independent MEP. Mr Tarand, whilst standing for SDE, has not as yet become a party member. Since the system in Estonia is a...
Society
According to Statistics Estonia, the change of the consumer price index in October 2018 was 0.5% compared to September and 4.4% compared to October of the previous year. Goods were 3.7% and services 5.7% more expensive compared to October 2017, while regulated prices of goods and services increased by 9.1%, and non-regulated prices by 3.1%. Compared to October 2017, the consumer price index was affected the most by transport, which contributed nearly a thi...
Society
The Ministry of Culture has rejected the request of English-language web magazine Estonian World (EW) for support from the state to to the tune of €5,000 for the remainder of 2018. The ministry has, however, promised to seek opportunities for supporting the portal in 2019. "Unfortunately, the support to this extent of English-language Estonian media outlets is not provided for in the agenda and budget of the government-approved Compatriots Programme for th...
Society
Last Wednesday, Theatre NO99 abruptly announced that it would be closing its doors, with its final performances scheduled for November and December. The theatre will be vacating a large building at the Central Tallinn address of Sakala 3, interest in which has been expressed by Sakala Skene, a new open centre for the performing arts and theatre education. Sakala Skene is a new brand uniting Polygon Theatre and Polygon Threatre School, Old Baskin's Theatre,...
Sports
The European Athletics Council has decided to award the right to host the European Athletics Under 20 Championships in 2021 to the Estonian Athletic Association, which will stage the event at Tallinn's Kadriorg Stadium. The same format was previously successfully hosted by the Estonian Athletic Association in 2011, in collaboration with the City of Tallinn. At the European Athletics Council meeting in Budapest, the Estonian bid to host the event was presen...
Society
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reopened the Estonian embassy in Budapest. The ministry announced the step on social media on Monday, saying that starting 5 November the embassy is offering consular services again. The embassy is providing consular services and assistance starting 5 November. Anyone who would like their documents issued there can indicate so on the application form, the ministry said. Consular services are available by advance appointm...
Society
Every day, some 30 people in Estonia call the Health Board complaining that a family doctor in Tallinn won't take them as a patient even though they technically have room on their patient rosters to accept new patients. Family doctors, however, find that working with too large a patient list could jeopardise the quality and accessibility of their care. Estonian Society of Family Doctors chairperson Le Vallikivi explained to daily Postimees that they are fa...
Society
Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) Riigikogu group chair Martin Helme has paid to boost his social media presence and used Riigikogu expenses benefits to pay for highlighting posts, a recent Riigikogu Chancellery document reveals. Postimees wrote earlier in the week about EKRE’s social media success and how their messages seem to reach more voters. Facebook’s company pages can be highlighted to reach more people. But the practice costs money. Bought posts...
Society
40% of employers in Estonia intend to increase their employees' wage levels, while 39% are planning on creating new positions and 70% intend to hire new employees to replace outgoing workers and fill temporary or new positions, it appears from a survey conducted by recruitment portal CVKeskus.ee and the Salary Information Agency. "40% of employers are planning to raise their employees' basic salaries, which is indicative of the wage pressures resulting fro...