Hundreds of hospital staff stage strike
Hundreds of auxiliary staff at a top Shanghai hospital went on strike yesterday, demanding a pay rise and full social welfare insurance.
On the mainland, such staff - known as care workers - do most of the cleaning and basic patient care, leaving medical matters to nurses. They are often managed by hospitals through a subcontractor and care for patients whose family members cannot attend the hospital, earning about 40 to 80 yuan (HK$48 to HK$97) a day.
The strikers started to gather in a passageway leading to the emergency department at the Xinhua Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai's Jiaotong University Medical School at about 7am. No one performed their normal duties, such as cleaning toilets and sending patients to operating rooms and medical examinations, the hospital said.
The nearly-500 care workers at the hospital are employed by a private subcontractor, Shanghai Jichen Hygiene and Logistics Service, set up in 2000 with investment from the Shanghai Health Department Logistics Service Centre.
Most of those on strike are responsible for cleaning, transporting patients and delivering meals. A circular outlining their demands said they had only seven days off a month, no annual leave, and demanded a pay rise. It also said they had to do the work of two people at weekends, with no extra pay.
They left the passageway after 10am to negotiate with their employer.
The hospital demanded that the employer solve the crisis soon and provide a venue for negotiations between the care workers and company chairman Huang Chen. Some care workers returned to work by 5pm. One woman told the Shanghai news portal xinmin.cn she had worked for the firm since 2001 and it had missed 18 months of insurance payments.
Another employee said they were not given any annual leave or the high-temperature allowance mandated by the country's labour law and were paid just 1,280 yuan a month as a minimum wage, with pay deducted if they asked for leave.
A company executive in charge of legal affairs said workers were paid according to their contract, and social welfare insurance payments had only been missed in isolated cases.
The hospital authority said it had called in medical staff who were off to fill in for the striking care workers.
Sun Kun, the hospital's party secretary, said almost 100 off-duty doctors and nurses were called back to work to clean toilets, send patients for medical examinations and distribute medicine. More than 50 administrative staff served lunch and dinner in wards.
'The hospital's order was not greatly affected,' a statement from the hospital said.
While many internet users expressed sympathy for the low-paid care workers many others criticised them. A man whose young son was to have surgery said they should uphold their rights in an open space, not in a passageway leading to the emergency room.