THE MINISTRY of Social Affairs and Health has finalised a draft proposal for a patient safety act that would enable authorities to limit certain industrial actions taken by the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (Super) and the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy).
Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday wrote that the act would grant regional state administrative agencies the right to order the unions to suspend strikes and, if necessary, order individual employees to work under the threat of fine.
The proposal is being drafted in response to strikes targeting intensive care units in Hämeenlinna, Oulu and Turku.
Millariikka Rytkönen, the chairperson of Tehy, on Sunday accused Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and Minister of Education Li Andersson (LA) of trying to “eradicate the right to strike for social and health care workers” and “destroy the sector”.
The draft bill would make unions primarily responsible for ensuring access to essential care during industrial actions.
If employee and employer representatives fail to agree on the extent of protected work at least five days before the scheduled start of the strike, the regional state administrative agency could forbid the strike or mass resignation at the request of the employer under the threat of fine.
If the unions fail to secure essential social and health care, the agencies could order individual employees to work under the threat of fine. The bill states that officials would have to grant the employee an opportunity to speak but not obtain their consent before issuing the order.
The amount of the fine would be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the draft bill.
The bill also recognises the possibility of mass resignations, granting regional state administrative agencies the right to order also resigned employees to perform tasks deemed essential for patient safety.
Representatives of Tehy claimed last week that in the worst case police officers could be used to ensure nurses return to work. The bill, however, forwards fines as the only forcible measure to enhance the work order.
Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Aki Lindén (SDP) on Thursday said the government will unveil its bill for the act early this week.
The government is hardly unanimous on the issue, however. The Left Alliance and the Green League, to a lesser extent, would prefer to limit the scope of the bill to intensive care, pre-hospital care, emergency care and childbirth care. The draft bill would also apply to essential forms of social care.
It thus remains uncertain whether the bill will be amended before it is presented to the Parliament.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT