Refuse the sales contract at the University Hospital Frankfurt! Create action committees!

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[Photo: WSWS]

On October 25, Frankfurt University Hospital and service sector union Verdi agreed on a “collective relief agreement” (TV-E) covering around 4,000 workers. However, it would be more honest to speak of a “collective agreement for ever-increasing workloads”. Although the new wave of coronavirus is already surging, the contract does not improve the situation for the exhausted staff.

Frankfurt’s contract is even worse than those awarded to Charité and Vivantes hospitals in Berlin, and university hospitals in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) last year.

Essentially, these contracts specify a binding staffing level for each service per team. If this does not meet the target, which means health staff then have to do double the work, they will not receive double pay, but accumulate a ‘point’ in a points-based system. While the Berlin contract provides for an additional free shift for five points, and the contract in NRW for seven points, no less than ten points are necessary for the nursing staff in Frankfurt. This means that they will only receive one additional free 8-hour shift after working ten understaffed shifts.

This is a direct appeal to management to “keep it up!” since every case of understaffing is the financial benefit of the hospital. In addition, the TV-E contract is not valid before August 1, 2023, when there will be a package of three additional relief days, two of which will be paid in cash because the lack of staff does not allow free. additional. days.

For nurses and healthcare staff, this first means waiting for another year of work as before, with no changes planned afterwards, because the main problem, the shortage of staff, will always exist. If someone takes a day off, their co-workers have to shoulder the added burden — a vicious circle that could only be broken by a fundamental abolition of the pre-life benefits policy during the pandemic and massive investment in hospitals.

Outside of nursing, the contract provides for the creation of a total of 70 new full-time positions to be used in IT, kitchens, patient transport, laboratory services, radiology and other departments, which is also far too little. For example, in patient transport, workers have reported to the WSWS that more and more of their colleagues are quitting due to persistent overwork.

November 30 must be the deadline to reject the agreement: if there is neither a veto from the supervisory board of Frankfurt University Hospital nor a rejection from union members by then, says the negotiator of Verdi Georg Schulze, “silence is consent”.

In the November vote, nurses, healthcare workers and all employees must vote no. Reject the TV-E contract sale! Support the Independent Action Committee of Rank and File Nurses, founded by the WSWS and the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (Socialist Equality Party) during the NRW nurses’ strike, which works with nurses around the world. Read our statement: “Support the nurses’ strike in North Rhine-Westphalia! Build Independent Action Committees!

As in NRW, and before that in Berlin, hospital workers in Frankfurt have shown great willingness to strike. They are part of an offensive by healthcare workers around the world. In Frankfurt, nurses have repeatedly staged industrial action for one-day and two-day strikes over the past year. In Berlin, a strike last fall at the Vivantes and Charité hospitals lasted 50 days, and in North Rhine-Westphalia, the six university hospitals were on strike for eleven weeks.

The action committee puts forward concrete demands in the fight against the nursing crisis. One of them is: “For each understaffed shift, workers must receive compensation equal to the absent worker’s salary plus 50% stress compensation!” The reason being: “If you work for two, you must also be paid for two!” This is the only way to put an end to the perfidious system in which health companies enrich themselves with understaffing to the detriment of our health!

The signing of the contract in Frankfurt shows once again that healthcare workers are not only up against the political establishment and corporations in this fight, but also against the union bureaucracy. Verdi is not waging a serious labor dispute, but is cementing in place the existing working conditions, which are a consequence of the government’s war policies and allow the pandemic to run wild. The pressure on wages is also increasing due to inflation and the explosion in prices. On all these issues, the unions are on the side of the federal “traffic light” coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Liberal Democrats (FDP) and the Greens.

At the Frankfurt University Hospital, Verdi’s negotiators are on the side of the management and the government of the Land of Hesse. They work closely with Minister of State for Science Angela Dorn (Greens), who is also chair of the hospital’s supervisory board. Like all trade unions, Verdi is in the same boat as the government and does everything it can to suppress the class struggle.

For example, the union did not once convene all nurses and health care workers. At the same time, staff at the university hospital in Marburg-Gießen, also in Hesse, must defend themselves against fallout and job cuts.

Verdi’s negotiator, Georg Schulze, has decades of experience isolating struggles from each other and breaking them off early. He also took the initiative to block the kindergarten strike movement for better working conditions in 2015, and also helped to organize the privatization of the University Hospital of Marburg-Gießen, on whose supervisory board he served for a long time. headquarters.

The latest deal at Frankfurt University Hospital comes at a time when the contract covering 2.3million public sector workers comes to an end. The main objective of the Frankfurt agreement is to prevent the development of an effective workers’ struggle which could change the situation.

Poor working conditions have worsened further during the pandemic and sick leave is high again. The state of Hesse, which is responsible for it, even briefly tried to send nurses who tested positive for COVID back to work earlier. Before the new wave of infections with the highly contagious BA5 virus, Minister Dorn decreed that it was enough to be symptom-free for two days after a COVID-19 infection and show a negative rapid test to return to work. By doing so, the minister risks creating dangerous new coronavirus hotspots in hospitals.

While enormous discontent has existed for months, the government and hospital management are trying to muzzle health workers.

At the height of the first wave of coronavirus, in September 2020, the CHU’s director of personnel circulated a letter stating that employees were only authorized to speak to “any press and answer interview questions” on the hospital care and operational organization “only after prior coordination and approval”. by the Office of Communications Staff. The staff council initially rejected this proposal, but reached an agreement with the hospital management in June 2022. There is now a new letter, complete with examples of what employees are allowed to do and what that they are not allowed to do.

According to this, “spontaneous declarations remain possible [when] in compliance with the legal obligations of confidentiality of collective agreements and employment contracts”, and employees are authorized to “spontaneously give an insight into their own emotional universe” if they do not divulge internal information.

The Frankfurter Neue Press cite examples from the letter. “I’m depressed because too few of us have to do too much” is allowed. What is prohibited, on the other hand, are sentences like: “I am depressed because a patient with coronavirus died yesterday during my shift”.

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