Health Ministry Orders Striking Nurses Back to Work on Penalty of Prison Terms and Stiff Fine; Nurse

The Health Ministry issued emergency regulations Thursday afternoon, ordering 11,000 striking hospital nurses back to work on penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a 2,500 Shekel ($1,600) fine or both.

But the order, issued on the third day of the strike which has crippled patient care, seemed to worsen the situation. A spokesman for the strikers said they would disregard the order. By Thursday evening, nurses who had remained on duty to man skeleton staffs, walked off the job. They said they were waiting for instructions from their strike committee.

Health Ministry Director General Dan Michaeli told hospital directors that if as many as one-third of the strikers returned to work, the emergency regulations would be rescinded.

The 11,000 women and male nurses went on strike Monday morning to demand a separate union or autonomy in the general nurses union. On Wednesday their union won recognition as a separate bargaining agent. But the strike continued. The strikers said Thursday that they were not satisfied that the government is ready to discuss hospital working conditions or the nurse shortage which they said imposes an impossible burden. They also demanded, for the first time, that pay scales be discussed. The strikers had insisted at the outset that wages were not an issue. The nursing profession recently received a 12 percent pay hike.

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