Hundreds of Brussels hospital workers down tools

Those employed by the Brussels public hospital network Iris are staging a 24 hour strike today. The strike is being held in protest at what the unions describe as rising pressure of work. Those taking industrial action want extra staff to be taken on as soon as possible and for wage levels to be increase for those working at the five Iris Network hospitals.   

The Iris hospitals’ Dirk Thielens told VRT News that operations that had been planned for today have been cancelled.

The five hospitals affected are the University Nursing Centre Brugmann in Laken and Schaarbeek, the University Medical Centre Saint Peter and the Jules Bordet Institute in the centre of Brussels, Iris South Hospitals that have sites in Etterbeek, Elsene, Vorst and Anderlecht and the Queen Fabiola Childrens’ Hospital in Laken.   

By 9:30 on Monday morning around 350 protesters had gathered outside the headquarters of the Iris hospitals network on the Dejonckerstraat in Sint-Gillis. Talks between the unions and management are underway there to try to resolve the dispute.    

Staff shortages

The unions are asking for two things. First of all they say that the pressure of work is such that they are no longer able to guarantee acceptable levels of care.

Consequently the unions are demanding that extra staff be taken on. Maxime Nys of the Socialist Trade Union told VRT News that they are also calling for a wage increase as they as staff in Brussels hospital “earn up to 15% less” that their colleagues in Flanders and Wallonia. Finally, the unions are also demanding that a company pension system be established for those working in the hospitals and that their transport expenses for their journeys to and from work be reimbursed in full.        

Although operations have been cancelled the Iris Hospitals’ Spokesman Dirk Thielens told VRT News that although operations have been cancelled those will appointments for other forms of treatment will be dealt with as normal. He added that he hoped that the strike action will be limited to today.