Cyprus’ PASYNO Nurses Association went on strike Monday to protest against a disciplinary probe that examines whether five members who refused to work in Athalassa hospital during COVID had breached their contract.
According to local media, PASYNO trade union went on a 12-hour strike Monday morning at 7am, in a symbolic show of support for five of its members who have been called into a health ministry administrator’s office to explain why they failed to work their shifts at Athalassa mental hospital.
The incident took place last November when five PASYNO nurses refused to care for patients, citing lack of health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reports said PASYNO union bosses had instructed their members prior to the incident, while nurses from another union stepped in with protective gear and tended to the patients.
The nurses have declined to comment publicly on the issue but PASYNO said the union made the decision to strike after a health ministry official reviewed a preliminary probe and assigned the case to a senior administrator, who invited the five members to give their account on Monday of what had happened.
PASYNO cried foul over the government’s response to the pandemic last year, while critics have accused union bosses of giving carte blanche to their members to act without consequences
“This exact behavior confirms that the minister is acting out of spite towards nursing staff, which has been patiently and steadfastly working over a year to manage the coronavirus pandemic, in particular against staff in mental health care working in horrible work conditions,” PASYNO said.
But the health ministry says any complaint about staff breaching their contract must be investigated, with reports saying the current case could result to either a minor or serious reprimand including docked pay.
PASYNO says Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou should stop the investigation from going any further, saying their members had simply followed instructions from union leadership.
“The strike takes place because the probe started illegally. These folks were following orders from the union. They were acting under the protection of the union,” PASYNO union leader Theodoros Petelis has argued.
But the health minister has accused PASYNO of attempting to obstruct justice, while also rejecting the claim that he had been personally involved with the issue.
“The fact that the union is threatening with strike measures, demanding that the ongoing procedure looking into possible disciplinary violations be halted just days before it is concluded, could be characterized at the very least as interference on the part of the network in order to alter the outcome,” Ioannou said last week.
Knews understands that the executive officer at Athalassa Hospital had filed the original complaint back in November 2020.
But PASYNO nurses working at Athalassa and other state hospitals are considered civil servants for administrative purposes, meaning the hospital administration cannot make status or pay decisions without the health ministry first addressing the situation through legal channels.
Critics have been split over the issue, with some siding with PASYNO and crying foul over the government’s response to the pandemic last year, while others have accused union bosses of giving carte blanche to their members to act without consequences.
PASYNO has rejected accusations of obstructing justice, with union bosses saying workers maintain their right to unionize.