Russia: Day of Action on 16 November in support of healthcare workers

But union leaders launch attack on CWI activist

The independent trade union ‘Action’, which organizes healthcare workers across Russia, is continuing its campaign in support of better wages and in defence of the healthcare system. A Day of Action will be held across Russia on 16 November.

Apart from demanding better wages and more healthcare jobs, trade union activists are planning to hand in declarations demanding that representatives of the government and administrators who have been guilty of running down the system are brought to account.

Ambulance service

There are many reasons why health workers in Russia are angry. Work at the ambulance stations has become almost impossible due to the shortage of staff. Neither those that are left in work nor patients can protect themselves from this situation. Workers face constantly increasing workloads and patients can no longer rely on the ambulance service. There are so few crews that the work is already of poor quality and ineffective and now, increasingly, they cannot even attend call-outs when needed. To add insult to injury, wages are desperately low, having nothing in common with the high figures spread by the official mass media. Ambulance staff cannot live on the pittance and are forced to take on other jobs or work round the clock. With no time to rest or relax, it is obvious that not only does their own health suffer and with it the risk of making mistakes also grows.

Hospitals and clinics

Healthcare centres, hospitals, maternity homes and clinics are being shut down on the grounds of “economic inefficiency”. As a result, accessibility of the population to healthcare has sharply fallen. Hospitals and clinics also suffer from a catastrophic drop in staff – leading to staff overloading and poor service for the patients. In some areas, there is a mass reduction in staff, or workers are simply transferred to other jobs on lower pay.

As if this was not enough in terms of damaging patient care, there is a growth in commercial healthcare. For those that have no health insurance, this means they are left with lower quality care, or are even refused treatment altogether. Now the only completely free treatment is emergency care and as a result of “modernisation” it too is becoming less accessible and of poorer quality.

The CWI in Russia is supporting the call of the independent healthcare workers’ trade union, Action, to all healthcare workers to join the day of action. Joint action by the staff and patients can stop the further commercialization of the health system, which only benefits the pockets of the ruling elite. We need a united campaign to stop the collapse of the health service and super-exploitation of the medical workers.

We say there is plenty of money in the federal budget for the immediate doubling of the finances available for the health service by cutting back on military expenditure and money for the “security” services. Medical workers should get decent wages and proper conditions of work. Private business has no place in the health service. All the private health insurance companies should be nationalized and their funds unified in one state fund, democratically controlled by healthcare workers and patients. Everyone should have the right to free quality healthcare.

Socialist removed from union’s council

Unfortunately not all those in the leadership of the trade union see the need to unite the fight in defence of free healthcare and for decent wages for healthcare workers. At its meeting last weekend, the National Council of the union, rather than discuss how to build the day of action, launched an attack on Anna Pavlova, a member of the CWI. Anna was elected to the National Council at the union’s conference just one month ago. Her ‘crime’? Writing an appeal to support the day of action, which was published on the Russian CWI website. She was removed from the Council by a 4-3 vote. Those behind the attack argued that the union should not be “involved in politics”. While saying that the left should not be allowed to carry political flags on the day of Action, they argued that the union should work with the officially recognized pro-Putin parties.

We call on all trade unions, particularly in the healthcare sector, to send messages of solidarity to the Day of Action on the 16 November at

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November 2013