Ambulance workers go on strike in Catalonia for four days but essential services are guaranteed
The ambulance service has gone on strike from Monday to Thursday because of a 9.2% drop in staff wages. However, the provision of basic services is guaranteed, such as emergencies – including accidents and intra-hospital journeys – and the transportation of oncology and haemodialysis patients with scheduled treatments. The Catalan Health Ministry and the trade union CCOO showed a disagreement on the strike’s success. According to the Catalan Government, the demonstration was only followed by 8% of the workers on its first day, while the CCOO stated that 90% of the non-essential services have not been provided. The owners of the ambulance providers announced significant salary reductions in July. After talks with unions and the mediation of the Catalan Labour Court, an agreement has not been reached to avoid the strike.
Barcelona (ACN).- The sector of ambulances services has gone on strike from Monday to Thursday because of a 9.2% drop of staff wages, according to trade unions. However, the provision of minimum services is guaranteed, such as emergencies – including accidents and intra-hospital journeys – and the transportation of oncology and haemodialysis patients with scheduled treatments. The Catalan Health Ministry and the trade union Workers Commissions (CCOO) showed a disagreement on the strike’s success. According to the Catalan Government – which exclusively runs the public healthcare system in Catalonia – the demonstration was only followed by 8% of the workers, while the CCOO stated that 90% of the non-essential services have not been provided. The Catalan Health Ministry emphasised that the strike was going smoothly during the morning, without any major incidents to be reported. However, in the afternoon, a group of union members were making sure that only ambulances serving Lleida’s main hospital were making essential services and that no others were running. Public ambulance services in Catalonia are run by private companies that have a framework agreement with the public health system, which pays them for their services. Each company is deciding how to guarantee the provision of the essential services during the strike, which comes after business-owners announced a significant salary reduction in July.
Between Monday 9th of September and Thursday 12th of September, ambulance workers are called to go on strike because of salary reductions that the unions consider being illegal. According to the unions, the public framework contracts under which the ambulance companies operate do not stipulate that these salary reductions can take place. Business-owners and union representatives have held talks in the past few weeks with the mediation of the Catalan Labour Court. However, an agreement was not reached to avoid the strike. The reduction of ambulance services provided (due to the economic crisis and a population drop) in addition to the Catalan Government’s budget cuts undertaken in all departments – in order to meet with the deficit target imposed by the Spanish Executive – are behind the restructuring of the ambulance service.
On the first day of the strike, the representatives of the ambulance business owners refused to talk to the press and directed queries to the Catalan Health Ministry. The Catalan Executive reminded that the entire public sector is suffering from salary reductions in order to adapt to the current economic situation and reduce public expenditure.
Disagreement on the strike’s success
The Catalan Ministry of Health and the trade union CCOO had not agreed on a figure that showed the exact amount of workers that went on strike. In the afternoon of the demonstration’s first day, the Catalan Government stated that only 7.74% of the ambulance service staff supported the strike. The data was provisional since it did not include the afternoon and evening services.
At the same time, the Spokesperson of the union CCOO, Jordi Venanci, underlined that the previous percentage announced by the Health Ministry refers to the total 4,800 staff of the entire sector, included the 1,800 employees who are obliged to work to guarantee the essential services. Furthermore, Venanci, underlined that 10% of the staff are on summer holidays. The CCOO representative insisted that 90% of the scheduled services “which are not for dialyses or chemotherapy” have not been provided; a figure that also excludes emergency transport.
According to the CCOO, on Monday morning, the strike was followed by 95% of the workers not affected by the essential services; a support of 100% in the provinces of Barcelona, Lleida and Tarragona and a support of 80% in the north-eastern Province of Girona.