Algerian doctors wage three-day strikes
By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers 12/03/12
Specialist doctors in Algeria are demanding better working conditions and higher compensation. A series of three-day strikes began last week in Algiers, with the second beginning Sunday (March 11th).
Protestors say they will continue until the health ministry heeds their demands.
The option of waging an indefinite strike is on the table if "the ministry does not enter into dialogue and continues to intimidate the protesters", said Mohamed Yousfi, Chairman of the National Union of Public Health Practitioners (SNPSP).
During a press conference on March 7th held at the union's headquarters in Algiers, Yousfi said that the ministry ordered provincial governors to withhold wages from striking doctors while hospital chiefs have been ordered to provide lists of doctors who are on strike.
"The Minister of Health is attacking us. He has ordered hospital chiefs to send him lists of the names and ranks of striking doctors so that they can then be fired. He has started to implement this threat at Boufarik Hospital where I work," he said. "Wages have already been docked. It's an attack on union freedoms," complained the representative of the specialists, who also claimed that working conditions for specialists are deteriorating.
The SNPSP is demanding public service incentives, compliance with regulations governing healthcare resources, higher bonuses, and a competitive basis for promotions.
The union chief gave an assurance that the ministry's attitude has not dampened the determination of the 80% of doctors who are on strike (within the health ministry, the number is closer to 10%) and said that there were plans to refer the dispute to the president.
In response to the protest, Health Minister Djamel Ould Abbes said on the day following the strike that strikers' wages will be docked.
Speaking on a day devoted to kidney transplant awareness, the minister said that the strike was illegal. "Every striker must fulfil his responsibilities. The law will be enforced without anger or rancour," he said.
Estimating the strike participation rate at just 10.5%, Ould Abbes called on the strikers to go back to work. He claimed that all of their demands have been dealt with.
Meanwhile, Yousfi said that a minimum level of service will be provided and that "patients will not be neglected as the ministry claims."
As for improvements in working conditions, the SNPSP is demanding public service incentives, compliance with regulations governing healthcare resources, higher bonuses, and a competitive basis for promotions.
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