Nurses back out of strike threat

PM talks yield accord on Health Ministry offer

The Nurses' Association of Thailand backed down on its threat to hold a three-day strike after a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met their demands for better working conditions.

Thousands of contract nurses have been calling on the government to recognise them as full-time civil servants to improve their work security and welfare benefits. They had threatened to strike early next month if they were not offered full-time contracts.

But after speaking to the prime minister yesterday, the nurses agreed to accept a Health Ministry plan which will employ more than 20,000 nurses on a full-time basis over the next three years.

Association president Jintana Yuniphan yesterday led a group of nurses to discuss their demands with Ms Yingluck and Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong at Government House.

Ms Jintana said most of the association members were satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.

The Health Ministry proposal will be sent to the cabinet for final approval on Dec 11, Ms Jintana said. "We have decided to call off the strike by about 17,000 nurses nationwide which we had set down for Jan 1-3.

"However, we will still have to see how how the cabinet decision turns out," Ms Jintana said. "If they don't do as promised, we will decide on our next course of action."

Health Minister Pradit said 22,641 non-permanent medical staff _ or about 75% of the 30,188 staff currently hired on a contract basis _ will be employed as full-time civil servants over three years.

The first batch of 7,547 staff will be offered full-time contracts next month, he said. The second group will be employed in October 2013, and the third group in October 2014.

Those who have been working for longer, are working in remote areas, and whose hospitals have a higher demand for staff will be given priority in the employment upgrade. Those who would miss out on the upgrade, however, will receive a new employment contract that offers better work benefits similar to those of full-time civil servants, Dr Pradit said.

Work contracts for non-full-time staff will now be renewed every four years instead of the current annual renewal, he said.

Contract staff will also be eligible for healthcare and child welfare benefits, as well as provident fund membership.

Wijit Srisuphan, president of the Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council, said she was happy that the fight for better work benefits, which had been going since 2004, was beginning to pay off.

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Writer: Pradit Ruangdit
Position: Reporter