The longest labor dispute in the North Rhine-Westphalian health care system is over. On Tuesday, the Verdi collective bargaining committee accepted a key issues paper negotiated with the employers the night before, which is to be implemented gradually from January 1, 2023, as announced by the union and employer. The strikes will end on Wednesday. The key issues paper envisages numerous improvements in working conditions.

“It’s done: The first collective agreement for relief at hospitals in Germany has been enforced,” said Katharina Wesenick, Verdi’s state department head for health, social affairs, education and science.

For the employers, the Medical Director of the University of Münster, Alex W. Friedrich, said they were convinced “that this agreement on a noticeable relief for employees marks a clear turning point that will not only change the future in nursing, but in general in the clinics in will have a significant impact on Germany”. Central points of the agreement are a better staff ratio, especially in patient-related professional groups, a shift-specific load measurement through days off or financial compensation and relief days when the new staff ratio is not reached.

The strike had lasted more than eleven weeks. With the industrial action, the Verdi union wanted to push through noticeable improvements, especially in the chronically understaffed care sector, but also in other areas of the clinic. Well over 10,000 operations have had to be postponed since the beginning of May due to a shortage of staff at the six clinics. A large number of corona sufferers exacerbated the situation.

The state government welcomed the agreement in the negotiations. Labor and Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) said that the past few weeks had demanded a lot from those involved – the employees, the patients and the clinic management. “I am therefore very happy that the social partners have found a solution to the wage dispute. There is now a good result on the table that will lead to better working conditions and lasting relief.”

In some parts of Germany there has long been a so-called collective agreement on relief (TV-E), which regulates the exact staffing levels for individual hospital areas. In NRW, the labor dispute began with a 100-day ultimatum to employers earlier this year. The university hospital bosses let this deadline pass, which intensified the tone. According to their own statements, the situation had become unbearable for the employees in nursing and other areas of the clinic, because the care and support of the patients was suffering more and more due to the shortage of staff.