MUMN opens dispute over political interference and ‘musical chairs’ in sectoral deal talks

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses has registered a labor dispute and threatened to issue guidelines over problems in negotiating a new sectoral agreement for nurses and midwives.

This was explained in a letter sent by the union to nurses and midwives on Monday, in which the two main problems encountered during the negotiations were set out.

The first problem MUMN explained was the Health Ministry’s apparent use of political advisers in discussions.

“The UMMN was surprised that in the nursing and midwifery sector agreement, a political adviser to the permanent secretary was present during the meeting with the UMMN officials,” the union said, adding that for other sectoral agreements, including that of doctors and that of Allied Health, no political adviser was present.

The union noted that the appointed political adviser had “no insight, knowledge or experience in nursing and midwifery degree issues”.

MUMN said the advisers were appointed so that MUMN would be outnumbered in the negotiations, so that there would be more interruptions and counter-arguments against their proposals, so that there would be the most possible world in the meetings to shoot down the proposals of the MUMN, and therefore the current permanent secretary appeases his relatives politically.

For these reasons, the MUMN has indicated that it refuses to attend any meeting on the branch agreement where political advisers are present for the meeting.

“Sectoral agreements should only involve government officials. It is unacceptable that the government intends to give UMMN a hard time negotiating an innovative sector agreement that retains and attracts a decent nursing and midwifery workforce,” the union said.

UMMN also said it suffered a “typical musical chairs situation” from the government in order to avoid certain proposals that UMMN included in its branch agreement.

“The overtime tax incentives and pension schemes offered by UMMN were spearheaded by the Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Finance. MUMN then requested a meeting with the Minister of Finance who refused to meet with MUMN and redirected MUMN to the permanent secretary hence the musical chairs,” the union said.

The union said it was not even allowed to discuss pension plans similar to the one handed to consultants in their industry deal by removing their cap.

Tax incentives on overtime given to police forces are also refused to discuss with MUMN and a musical chair approach has already begun for MUMN to lose heart in such proposals, the union said.

MUMN said it is clear the process towards securing a “decent” sectoral deal is going to be a “difficult, bumpy and dirty road” for the union.

The union said it was declaring a labor dispute based on these two issues and called on all nurses and midwives to abide by guidelines to be issued shortly if the above two issues are not resolved.

“Without your support, MUMN will never be able to achieve a decent sectoral agreement to address the severe shortage of nurses in the country,” the union said.

“MUMN also expects all nurses and midwives to continue to follow MUMN guidelines, even if a court warrant is issued. The current permanent secretary, in the two meetings that the UMMN held in his office, repeatedly mentioned the court and the issuance of judicial warrants. The MUMN is ready for all circumstances,” the union concluded.