From Iceland — Health Minister Looking Into Hiring Foreign Nurses

Health Minister Looking Into Hiring Foreign Nurses

Published July 16, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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The Minister of Health is considering hiring nurses from abroad to replace the Icelandic nurses who are resigning, some of them moving abroad.

Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson told RÚV that one of the options the government is looking into to deal with the growing nursing shortage due to resignations is to start hiring nurses from overseas.

Foreign nurses in the Icelandic health care system is nothing new. MBL reports that a great many of them hail from the Scandinavian countries, but also from other corners of the globe, such as the Philippines. However, as over 300 nurses and rising have so far tendered their resignations over collective bargaining terms – many of them seeking to practice their profession abroad instead – the government actively seeking foreign workers to replace them is unusual.

Nurses went on strike at the end of May, but were ordered back to work through parliamentary vote weeks later. This prompted some immediate resignations, with many more following. Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktson initially wrote these resignations off as “a negotiations tactic”.

The government then offered new terms to union leadership, who tentatively accepted the deal pending how nurses voted. However, 88.4% of voting nurses voted against the deal.

According to the law which broke the strike, in the event of this happening, the collective bargaining terms would be set by a three-person arbitration committee. The matter doesn’t end there, though, as nurse’s union chairperson Ólaf­ur G. Skúla­son intends to take the government to court over the strike-breaking legislation.

In the meantime, the national hospital is stretched thin in their nursing staff, as there is still no end to the dispute in sight.

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