CAIRO: Doctors said they will stage a seven day sit-in at the Doctors’ Syndicate after the board postponed the two-hour strike which was meant to begin this Sunday, March 15.
In a statement, the lobby group Doctors Without Rights condemned the decision to postpone the strike.
“The union has betrayed doctors’ hopes . on the pretext that it wishes to protect doctors and not expose them to the administrative or legal measures threatened by the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister, the statement reads.
In a radio interview last week Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif threatened doctors planning to strike, saying, “Many people are perhaps unaware of the fact that public sector employees – in particular doctors – are prohibited from striking. Those who wish to express themselves have many alternative methods to stopping work.
Nazif’s claim that a strike by doctors would be illegal has been criticized by rights group such as the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, which in a statement issued on March 6 rebutted Nazif’s comments, saying that doctors have the “constitutional right to strike.
Doctor Mona Mina, member of Doctors Without Rights, told Daily News Egypt that the decision to postpone the strike – issued after a meeting between the Syndicate board and regional branches of the Syndicate – was taken “illegitimately.
“The decision to strike was taken during a general assembly meeting of the Syndicate which saw one of the biggest turnouts in 15 years, Mina said.
“Attendees were unanimous in their rejection of the Health Ministry’s offer to raise wages through allowances, and the majority voted for strike action. A decision taken by the general assembly can only be cancelled by the general assembly, she continued.
Doctors reject allowance payments for shifts and other duties because, they say, they are not always paid. They are calling for a LE 1,000 fixed minimum wage.
Mina says that the low turnout – 12 doctors – at Sunday’s meeting between the Syndicate board and regional Syndicate branches may have been because “the Syndicate Board did not invite doctors known to be activists.
Syndicate head Dr Hamdy El-Sayyed told Daily News Egypt that the decision to postpone the strike was “in order to examine the extent of its legality.
“We think that a strike is legal but I cannot take an unlawful decision which will have legal consequences for doctors, El-Sayyed said.
When asked whether the sit-in against the decision to postpone the strike indicated preparedness on the part of doctors to face these consequences, El-Sayyed said, “Doctors Without Rights are only 20 people and there are 70,000 doctors. If they want to demonstrate against this decision in the Doctors’ Syndicate they are free to do so. We won’t stop them.
According to Doctors Without Rights, doctors will begin the sit-in on the March 15 at 9 am – the time at which the strike was scheduled to begin – and will stay there for seven days until the next general assembly of the Doctors’ Syndicate, scheduled for March 21.
A two-hour protest between 3 pm and 5 pm will be held on each day of the sit-in.
In a message sent to its Tuesday members, Doctors Without Rights said that an “important inspection will be held on the morning of March 15 in government hospitals.
“It seems that the Health Ministry wants to break up the sit-in and the strike by holding an inspection on the same day of the sit-in in order to guarantee that all doctors will be present in hospital, the message reads.