It will not be possible to conduct coronavirus tests on those who come to Iceland if nurses go on strike. Testing at the borders should start on June 15th, but nurses have confirmed that they intend to go on strike a week later, on the 22nd, if a new wage agreement with the state is not reached prior, Fréttablaðið reports.
Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, director of nurses at the capital region’s healthcare office and a member of the group working to prepare the borders for reopening, told RÚV that the matter will be of grave concern. The first two weeks of testing new arrivals at the border, in which tests will be free of charge, will be considered an experimental period.
“If we start striking during this period, I don’t see how it can work,” she says. “There are many nurses both directing and managing this project, so I don’t see how it is possible for us to open the borders without them.”
When asked whether it would be possible for nurses to be exempted from the strike to conduct the screening, Ragnheiður says it is not at all certain. “We will definitely ask for exemptions, but there’s no telling whether we will get them. Like at health centers, we can only get a few exemptions. We only have one manager at each station that can get an exemption.”
Core Issue At A Standstill
Preparations for the testing are now in full swing, as it is now a matter of weeks before they are due to start. Those who arrive in Iceland after June 15th are asked to get tested instead of going into two-week quarantine. It will also be possible to show a valid health certificate either confirming previous recovery from the virus or a recent negative test upon arrival.
The issue of wage agreements for nurses has gone unresolved for nearly a year, and their bargaining with the state appears to have reached a stalemate. According to Fréttablaðið, little has happened in recent meetings between state negotiation committees and the Icelandic Nurses’ Association, which could lead to them meeting again in the next few days. The state mediator has called for a new meeting on the wage dispute after noon tomorrow.
As reported, nurses agreed to strike on June 22nd starting at 8:00 A.M. with a decisive majority of 85.5% in an online vote last Friday, which garnered an 82.2% turnout. The negotiating committees had previously reached an agreement, but it was included in elections for nurses at the end of April. The salary component of the contract was the element that the nurses stated they could not accept.
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