Duvar English

Several Turkish healthcare workers on May 21 protested the government for widening the already existing wage inequality between healthcare staff with additional coronavirus payment, saying that this injustice “on the basis of occupational groups and employment forms” should be eradicated.

They urged the government to improve the welfare of low-wage healthcare workers, saying the lowest wage should not be below “poverty threshold.”

“We are calling on the authorities; please be fair and when this epidemic is over, execute a wage policy which will have an effect on the base salaries [excluding supplementary payments],” the head of the İzmir Medical Chamber, Funda Obuz, was quoted as saying by daily Evrensel.

Members of the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services (SES) undertook their protests in several cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Diyarbakır, Urfa, Mersin, Hatay, Antalya, Adana Manisa and Batman.

Healthcare workers from Taksim Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul held banners in front of their hospital, reading “We have not been remunerated,” “We should be provided job and payment security,” “I am working at nights under heavy conditions.” Citizens passing by the road have provided their support for the healthcare workers by applauding them.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced in March that healthcare workers involved in the fight against the Covid-19 would be provided an additional payment for three months.

The protesting healthcare workers however said that subcontracted personnel, staff at family health centers and staff at university hospitals who are not working at “common use areas” have not benefited from this additional payment. They have said that this implementation therefore added to the already existing pay gap in the health sector.

Regardless of which hospital service they are working at, all healthcare workers should receive double wages for the period covering the coronavirus outbreak, they said.

“The injustice regarding the supplementary payments should be eliminated and the additional payment of three months should be paid to all healthcare workers so that it does not lead to an injustice on the basis of occupational groups and employment forms,” healthcare workers said.

The general secretary of the İzmir branch of Health Services Workers’ Union (Sağlık-İş), Özgür Arslan, said that the health sector functions as a “whole with the cooperation of all staff” from different teams and these teams complement each other.

Adem Sarıçoban, another Sağlık-İş official, said that additional payments made to certain healthcare staff have been leading to tensions in the sector. “What we are saying is that the health system is a chain, and if one of the links of this chain breaks off, service can no longer be given,” he said.

The healthcare workers also protested the government-run Social Security Institution (SGK) over its announcement that Covid-19 will not be considered as a work accident or occupational disease. The SGK’s move prevents workers with insurance, including healthcare workers, from receiving any form of compensation should they contract the virus.