Nurses insist on right for industrial action to press for better pay

Nurses insist on right for industrial action to press for better pay

MUMN chief says directives would not have hit patients directly

Source: The Times of Malta, 3rd December 2020


The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses on Wednesday defended in court a decision to order industrial action, with union chief Paul Pace insisting that nurses should be paid at the same rates as other healthcare professionals.

The dispute was taken to court after a judge last week temporarily upheld a Health Ministry request to ban the action because of its impact on the health service. 

Pace said the discrepancy between the wage of a nurse and that of other healthcare workers was between €2,000 and €5,000 annually.

“We were very careful when issuing the directives. We did not order anything that would affect patients but only things that have been lumped on the nursing profession. Nurses should be with sick patients and not on a computer or on the phone,” Pace told Mr Justice Robert Mangion.

The union's directives include nurses not coordinating transfers of patients, not chasing results including those from COVID-19 swabs and not giving handovers. The directives would have affected all state hospitals, clinics and health centres.

The MUMN is arguing that a collective agreement covering Allied Healthcare Professionals, represented by the UHM Voice of the Workers, gave hospital workers in the same grade as nurses more allowances and a take-home-pay that was substantially higher.

According to a calculation presented in court, the discrepancy between that paid to a healthcare worker and a nurse, both in the same salary scale and with 18 years’ experience is of almost €3,400 while that for those with 25 years’ experience is almost €4,000.

Pace told the court that nurses were overworked and underpaid. There was a shortfall of around 400 nurses in the healthcare system and this was resulting in nurses being lumped with more work, he said.  

“We feel we are not appreciated. At the Intensive Therapy Unit, for example, the ratio should be one nurse per patient but there are three patients for every nurse. We were very responsible in our directives. We left out the usual ones that directly affect patients such as the washing or getting them out of bed. We stuck to things we are expected to do, and which should not be part of our duties.”

'Directives will bring hospital to a standstill'

Mater Dei chief executive Celia Falzon and Head of Nursing Carmen Damato said that the directives would bring the hospital to a standstill.

“I have never seen such industrial action in 36 years as a nurse,” D’Amato told the court. Falzon said that if communication were to stop between nurses and other healthcare professionals who are part of the same supply chain, the hospital would stop running and patients would suffer.

The ministry's lawyers, Alex Sciberras and Paula Cauchi argued the directives are unlawful, disproportionate and excessive.

But MUMN lawyer Chris Cilia countered that the nurses wanted equal pay for work of an equal value and had a right to take appropriate industrial action that did not go beyond the limits set out at law.

Mr Justice Mangion will decree in chambers.


Following this Dispute, fellow Affiliations reached out to MUMN in order to show their support to Maltese Nurses, especially coping under these critical and harsh situations. Please find below Support Letters from the EFN, ICN and the CNMF. MUMN would like to take this opportunity to thank our fellow affiliates for their support.