Doctors strikes over summer: today’s the final day for talks

Last week’s announcements of 30% pay increases seem to have been tactical

June 30 is – has always been – the deadline for an agreement between doctors and the government on pay scales (increases). And contrary to reports last weekend, it is not looking good.

As the two sides resume negotiations today, both major doctors’ syndicates are still talking strikes, both in July and August.

Says Lusa, “among the several issues under negotiation is the revision of the salary scales for National Health Service physicians, which the Independent Medical Union (SIM) and the National Federation of Physicians (FNAM) consider fundamental for an agreement with the Government”.

The two unions have been highly critical in the past of government ‘dithering’ in terms of negotiations.

Depending on today’s outcome, meetings will be going ahead over the next couple of days to determine doctors’ ‘next steps’.

Again, these are not looking good for the rest of the population: FNAM (the national federation of doctors) already has strikes booked for next week (Wednesday July 5 and Thursday July 6), and is now saying there will be more of the same in August, when the country is not only full of people on holiday/ having accidents etc., but full of visitors doing exactly the same.

Despite reiterating that it does not wish to resort to strikes, SIM – the independent syndicate of doctors – has “acknowledged that the way the negotiation process has taken place may lead to the adoption of this form of protest”.

None of this promotes the capacity of current health minister Manuel Pizarro, who took over from his predecessor Marta Temido, under whose watch the negotiations began 14 months ago.

Mr Pizarro has been widely seen as a silent and ineffective health minister: when issues break in the news, he is usually either ‘tranquil’ that a solution will be found, or taken slightly by surprise, and then suggests ‘a solution will be found…’

He guaranteed when he took over from Marta Temido that he was starting the negotiation process with an “open spirit“, and with the goal of enhancing doctors’ careers. Since then there has been very little to show this, say the unions.

Popular tabloid Correio da Manhã ‘broke the news’ last weekend that doctors would be offered a 30% pay increase ‘either last Monday, or on Wednesday’. None of this happened, and it is looking like this was a soundbite floated in order to prepare ground.

That ground is being discussed right now, behind closed doors, as FNAM and SIM face government negotiators for the last time in this complicated process. This will be the 16th meeting between the parties in the last 14 months, says SIC Notícias.

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