COPENHAGEN - A tenth of Denmark's nurses will go on strike on Saturday after union members voted against a pay deal that their union leadership had approved, the nurses' union said on Monday.
The decision came with the Nordic country having largely avoided a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, easing pressure on an overstretched health service. There has been a steady decline in infections and hospitalisations, allowing Denmark to relax hard lockdown measures imposed in December.
The strike, which begins on Saturday morning, involves 5,350 nurses or around 10% of the nursing workforce, the Danish Nurses' Organization told Reuters. The union could not say how long the strike would last.
"The dissatisfaction with wages has grown too great," union president Grete Christensen said in a statement. "...After a year and a half with coronavirus, we are in a place where nurses have been running extra fast in a working day that was already characterised by a pressured work environment."
Nurses in March rejected a government offer of a 5.02% wage increase over three years.
Nurses and radiographers had had until Sunday to vote on a proposal for a new collective agreement between public employer organisations and the union, but the proposal had not included any immediate wage increases for nurses, a sore point.
Around 65.5% of votes were against the proposal, while 34.5% were in favour. A majority of radiographers, however, voted in favour, meaning they will not be going on strike.
"Of course, its upsets me very much that we are now facing a conflict in the healthcare system," said Anders Kuhnau, lead negotiator of Danish Regions, a government employer, which manages Denmark's healthcare system.
"I am sorry on behalf of the patients which it ultimately affects," he said.
Danish Regions said they had agreed to set up emergency teams across the country in order to provide treatment to those patients in critical need.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Mark Heinrich) ((Nikolaj.Skydsgaard@thomsonreuters.com;))