A strike by doctors in Germany's public hospitals over wages and working hours that began in March has resulted in losses of millions of euros. Clinics are demanding reimbursement.
Doctors might still be striking during the World Cup
The chairman of the Association of University Clinics in Germany (VUD), Rüdiger Strehl, told the Berliner Zeitung daily that Germany's federal states should reimburse clinics for the economic damage they have sustained due to the ongoing strike, which he estimated at 100 million euros ($128 million).
"We will take legal recourse against the states," he said in an interview with the paper, adding that the hospitals were not able to make up for the lost income on their own.
Doctors originally began their strikes on March 16 with a series of one-day walkouts and on Monday, they began another stage of their walk-out, promising strikes that would affect all but emergency services in 38 public hospitals in nine federal states this week.
More than 12,500 doctors walked off the job yesterday demanding a 30 percent pay increase and better working conditions, including regular working hours, overtime pay and time during the working week to conduct research.
The hospitals say the states should be required to provide compensation since they share the blame in not finding a way to end the prolonged strike.
The employers' head negotiator, Lower Saxony Finance Minister Hartmut Möllring, has called the demands for compensation "completely absurd," saying there is no "legal claim to successful wage negotiations." He added that such compensation would make little sense, since the states would be in effect paying themselves, since the hospitals in questions are public facilities.
Striking doctors want better wages and working conditions
"It would be like the right hand paying the left one," Möllring said.
The two sides in the debate have failed to reach an agreement even after weeks of intense negotiations. In mid-May, the Marburger Bund, a doctors' union, broke off talks with state negotiators. The union has promised to resume work next week, but to strike again during the following week, with the World Cup in full swing.
Some have worried that medical care during the huge event, which is expected to bring 3.5 million visitors to Germany, could be compromised.
Still, the chairman of the Marburger Bund, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said that despite the pumped-up rhetoric, he thinks chances are good that an agreement will be wrapped up soon, as long as the states "abandon their stonewalling at the expense of patients and hospitals and return to the negotiating table." The union has indicated it is willing to compromise on some of its original demands.
Negotiator Möllring, however, said the ball was now in the union's court. "Those who walk away from the table are the ones who have to come back to it," he said.