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November 8, 2011

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Surgery hit by hospital strike

A STRIKE by helpers yesterday at a local hospital that led to patients being left unattended and operations postponed ended after a day when their employer agreed to demands.

Staff employed by an external company, including auxiliary nurses, porters and cleaners, protested over social insurance payments, an allowance for working in high temperatures, overtime rates and holiday pay.

The strike ended last night when employer Shanghai Jichen Sanitation and Logistics Management Co reached a settlement with staff.

At about 7am yesterday, more than 400 uniformed workers gathered outside the outpatient service and emergency buildings of Xinhua Hospital in Yangpu District.

The strike affected patient care and meals, cleaning, and moving patients and equipment to operating theaters.

There was disruption to wards and operating theaters, leading to the postponement of surgery, admitted the hospital.

"The running of the hospital was affected to a certain extent," said Wu Tao, media officer of the hospital. "We had to ask doctors and nurses, some called in from home, to cover."

The hospital said it would have taken legal action against Jichen, to which it has outsourced its human resources contract, had the strike continued.

Strikers said Jichen paid little social insurance on their behalf, with some claiming contributions were not fully met between 2002 and 2005.

"They skipped 21 months of social insurance for me, and without it my pension will be seriously affected," said Zhou Meizhen, aged 46.

"And they didn't pay the statutory high-temperature allowance for the scorching days this summer.

"There's so much unfairness and we couldn't stand it any longer," said Zhou.

Workers said they were expected to work nine hours a day, without transport or food allowances, no overtime payments, no annual vacation, double workloads at weekends and only seven days off a month.

Their average income is less than 1,400 yuan (US$221) a month, the minimum wage in the city.

After talks, Jichen agreed to most of the demands. However, it denied responsibility for missed social insurance payments.

"Every employee's situation is different and the lack of social insurance is not caused by us," said human resources director Gu Weimin.

Gu said some staff had quit several times and some still received unemployment subsidies after being hired, which would affect payments.

But Gu acknowledged there had not been enough communication.

All staff will receive three months' high-temperature allowance, 11 days off for rest days this year, an extra three days' vacation and overtime paid at 12 yuan an hour.


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