Swedish nurses and midwives threaten to walk out in full-blown strike

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Swedish nurses and midwives threaten to walk out in full-blown strike
Union chair Sineva Ribeiro on the picket line. Photo: Caisa Rasmussen/TT

The Swedish Association of Health Professionals is threatening to scale up an overtime ban to an all-out strike at some of Sweden's biggest hospitals from June 4th.


"We're striking because we are serious about saving healthcare," the union's chairperson Sineva Ribiero said in a statement. "Our members need shorter working hours in order to be able to work for the entirety of their careers in healthcare."

A blockade on overtime and new hires has been in place for 63,000 members of the union in all Swedish regions since April 25th, which was extended to 5,000 municipal employees in 29 municipalities from May 20th. Healthcare is run regionally in Sweden, but municipalities organise welfare services such as elderly care and school nurses.

Almost a third of the union's members work part time, with many stating that they do so as they are physically unable to work full time, in a report written by the union. Four out of ten young people said in the same report that they do not expect to work in healthcare for their entire career, although many did say that they may work full time if working hours are shortened.

The new walkout will cover some 2,000 nurses, midwives, biomedical analysts and radiology nurses in five regions: Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Skåne, Östergötland and Västerbotten.

Seven hospitals will be affected: Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, Linköping University Hospital, Norrland University Hospital in Umeå, as well as Danderyd Hospital and Södersjukhuset in Stockholm.

"We've decided to launch a strike at these hospitals for a number of reasons," Ribiero said. "They're major employers and have a significant responsibility for the workload and working hours we want to improve. We also have many members in these hospitals, and there are alternatives for patients whose treatment could be affected by the groups who will be striking."


Psychiatry and pediatric nurses will not be included in the strike, and the union said it had worked to ensure that it will not put patients' lives or health at risk.

"We are striking responsibly by including exemptions for cancer treatment, child healthcare and life-threatening illnesses, for example," Ribiero said.

"The employers now have two weeks to prepare and adapt so they can continue to offer citizens good healthcare and treatment. It's important that they take this work seriously."

The new hire blockade will be partially lifted from June 4th, so that new graduates who will be taking their final exams in June, who would otherwise be affected, will be able to start work as soon as their qualifications are issued.



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