Health service doctors and pharmacists begin new round of strikes

Protests blamed on government’s “absence of concrete responses” 

Doctors and pharmacists working within the SNS Portuguese national health service begin the week with a strike today that is part of a series of strikes planned as a result of what unions call “the absence of concrete response from the government”.

Tuesday to Thursday this week will see further industrial action by doctors, with more dates scheduled for early September ahead of a national strike due to take place on the 19th of that month (ie at the point that the ‘summer break’, particularly in schools, is finally over).

At stake are stalled negotiations on salary scales and career development.

SNF, the national union of pharmacists, has said that it “regrets” that the Ministry of Health “remains silent and does not express any intention to start a serious negotiation process”, and is behind the plan for a ‘concentration of pharmacists at 10.30 this morning near the Palace of São Bento, the official residence of Prime Minister António Costa.

SNF’s demands are pretty much carbon copies of all public sector union demands: the updating of salary scales, full counting of service time for promotion and career progression, adequacy of the number of pharmacists to the needs of the public health service and recognition by the ministry of health of the title ‘specialist’ with regard to pharmaceutical personnel.

SIM, the independent syndicate of doctors, has joined today’s action in the context of a month-long strike on overtime by GPs within the public sector.

This effective ‘go slow’ “will affect tens of thousands of consultations in health centres”, stress reports.

SIM has already asked for the public’s ‘understanding’: “we are forced to call this strike after 12 months of negotiation – a year of negotiation with the government without concrete or objective proposals”, stressed the union’s Hugo Cadavez.

The summer so far has been marked by a welcome absence of physical wildfires, but the fires and fury within the public sector promise to rage right through the season – and in the case of the country’s teaching unions, into the new academic year.

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