North Rhine-Westphalia: Clear the way for collective agreement on relief at university hospitals

The new NRW state parliament decides to amend the higher education law as a prerequisite for a collective agreement for relief at the six university hospitals.

North Rhine-Westphalia: Clear the way for collective agreement on relief at university hospitals

The new NRW state parliament decides to amend the higher education law as a prerequisite for a collective agreement for relief at the six university hospitals. But employers and employees are more irreconcilable than ever in the dispute that has been going on for weeks.

Düsseldorf (dpa / lnw) - The North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament has cleared the way for the collective bargaining agreement that has been sought by the employees of the six NRW university clinics for months. However, it is more uncertain than ever whether an agreement with the clinic management will be reached soon. With the votes of the new black-green coalition as well as the SPD and AfD, the plenary passed the amendment to the Higher Education Act on Wednesday. Only the FDP voted against the change in the law. It is the indispensable legal prerequisite for the university hospitals to be able to withdraw from the employers' association of the federal states (AdL) and conduct independent collective bargaining with the Verdi union.

It is currently questionable whether there will be a compromise between the employees, who have been on strike for the ninth week, and the hospitals in the conflict over better working conditions that has been going on for months. The parties are irreconcilable. The conflict escalated even further on Wednesday. According to Verdi, the employers show no willingness to cooperate even after 15 days of negotiations and reject core demands.

"With yesterday's declaration by the employers that there will be no regulations with them to compensate for the real stress and strain situations of the individual employees, the clinic directors are questioning the core of the collective agreement on relief," stated Verdi country manager Gabriele Schmidt. Verdi speaks of an escalation at the negotiating table. So far, employers have only made a concrete offer for those directly employed in care. All other areas should not be negotiated according to their will. According to Verdi, "professional groups outside of nursing" are largely ignored, although it is clear "that the burden of patient transport, service, in the clinic daycare centers, in the laboratories and outpatient clinics is no longer bearable".

The black-green state government must speak out, because the clinic management "now disputes the recognition of the collective agreement," explained Schmidt. She described the behavior of the employers as an "affront to the state government" and spoke of an "escalation". Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) assured that the general collective agreement, which regulates salaries, holidays and much more, would remain untouched. Now it's up to the government and "to Laumann personally" to make it clear to the clinic directors that the promise is valid. Schmidt threatens: "Otherwise we will be in a permanent conflict, the end of which is not foreseeable."

According to dpa information, Laumann wants to meet with Verdi representatives on Thursday morning and then speak to the strikers in front of the state parliament in the morning. After that (1:30 p.m.), the union wants to provide information on the status of the negotiations.

In addition to the legal basis, a collective bargaining agreement has so far also been prevented by the state's lack of funding guarantees for some clinic areas. Verdi and the clinic staff hope that this hurdle could be cleared in the state parliament on Thursday. In an application, the SPD parliamentary group calls on the state government to ensure Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) the affected university hospitals in Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen and Münster that "the state will ensure the full refinancing of the collective agreement relief" - and this "anchored in the state budget in a reliable and transparent way for planning".

According to Thomas Kutschaty, the SPD parliamentary group fully supports the employees. For months, they have been waiting for relief "that they deserve," according to the opposition leader. Black-Green must now prove that employees get more than empty campaign promises. According to Kuchaty, the fact that the coalition agreement could not bring itself to agree to a financing commitment for the collective agreement was a "huge disappointment" and a "resounding slap in the face" for the workforce. He expects the approval of the governing parties. It is now about “no less than better and fairer health care” in NRW.

It will be shown how seriously the new NRW leadership is with a "policy for employees and patients", emphasized Verdi boss Schmidt. Like the patients and the clinics, which have had to postpone urgent operations and treatments for weeks because of the strikes, the strikers are also suffering in the industrial dispute. They actually want to go back to their jobs and take care of their patients, but continue to fight for an appropriate framework for this. An end to the conflict is not in sight.

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