Mass Resignation among Nurses in Iceland Skip to content

Mass Resignation among Nurses in Iceland

A statement from the office of Landspítali National University Hospital (LSH) director Björn Zoëga confirmed yesterday that 254 of the 1,348 nurses employed by the hospital have resigned. The resignations will take effect on March 1, 2013.

nationalhospital-hallgrimskirkja_ipaThe Landspítali National University Hospital (foreground). Photo copyright Icelandic Photo Agency.

The reason for the mass resignation is dissatisfaction with salaries and work conditions. The statement described the situation as “very serious” and that it is being worked on in cooperation with the Ministries of Finance and Welfare.

“Nurses have been repressed for many years and it shouldn’t be a law of nature that we are a low-earning profession,” states a nurse, who would not be named, to Morgunblaðið.

She and a colleague of hers, who both resigned at the end of last month, describe their profession as undervalued and the salaries humiliating.

In addition, the work load is sometimes so intense that nurses have been submitted to the hospital with serious arrhythmia, they stated.

The starting salaries for nurses at LSH is ISK 280,907 (USD 2,300, EUR 1,700) per month before taxes and the average standard wages ISK 379,966 (USD 3,000, EUR 2,300) per month.

The current wage agreement with nurses is valid until 2014, the statement explains. An institutional agreement between LSH and the Icelandic Nurses’ Association is also in effect but last January the association requested that it be reviewed.

Negotiations are ongoing but nurses have requested improvements of wages beyond what the hospital can accept given extensive cutbacks after the banking collapse in 2008, the statement concludes.

Nurses are not the only profession at the hospital dissatisfied with their wages and work conditions but their demands are always met with claims that there is no money.

Heiðbjört Guðmundsdóttir, shop steward for practical nurses at LSH, told Morgunblaðið that employees had agreed to make sacrifices and do their best to have things run smoothly despite cutbacks until it came to light last autumn that Minister of Welfare Guðbjartur Hannesson had planned to raise the salaries of LSH director Björn Zoëga.

“At that point, something burst. People started thinking about their personal interests because obviously, that’s what others were doing,” Heiðbrá stated.

Click here to read more about the planned salary increase that was later canceled.


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