Nurses and midwives take work-to-rule action

Tens of thousands of nurses and midwives across Sweden commenced a nationwide healthcare work-to-rule on Thursday afternoon following the breakdown of negotiations over salaries and work schedules. Launched by the Swedish Association of Health Professionals (Vårdförbundet), the industrial action began at 4 pm on Thursday.

Skellefteå hospital

Skellefteå hospital

Foto: Pär Lindström/Norran

Engelska2024-04-26 10:45

The union represents a wide range of healthcare professionals, including nurses, midwives, biomedical scientists, and radiographers.

Approximately 63,000 union members are impacted by the work-to-rule, which entails a refusal to work overtime or extra shifts, and prohibits employers from hiring new staff for the duration of the action.

Vårdförbundet's union chair, Sineva Ribeiro said:

Sineva Ribeiro of Vårdförbundet.

– We are seeking a long-term solution that includes a gradual reduction in working hours, the implementation of sustainable work schedules, and the establishment of four consecutive weeks of summer vacation. Furthermore, we advocate for a fair and competitive wage increase that ensures equal compensation for our work. We believe that wage adjustments should be implemented promptly, without a six-month waiting period.

Mikaela Bergström, the vice president of the Västerbotten chapter of Vårdförbundet, was present at the main entrance of Skellefteå hospital before the 4 pm deadline when the work-to-rule was to take effect.

– In concrete terms, this means that our members will go home when their shifts end, explained Bergström.

She believes that it will be difficult for the region to keep operations running now, which she says is the point.

– They've continually taken advantage of our consistent willingness to go above and beyond to keep things running, she said.

In Västerbotten, 5,000 members of Vårdförbundet are affected, but the work-to-rule also applies to non-members who work in the professions that Vårdförbundet organizes.

Mikaela Bergström of Västerbotten's branch of Vårdförbundet.

Bergström says it is unfortunate that the union has had to resort to industrial action.

– The best thing would have been if SKR (the umbrella organisation that represents Swedish regions, who are responsible for healthcare,) had listened to our demands so that we could have reached a settlement, which is what everyone wants. However, it feels necessary to take a stand now. We will be working our contracted hours only, and nothing more, says Bergström.

There is no time limit for how long the work-to-rule can last; it will continue until the union and the employers have reached an agreement.

– I hope they start listening and paying attention to the fact that healthcare staff have paid with our own health for a very, very long time, she says.