Global Nurses United is only two months young but the fledgling movement showed it could walk the walk on September 17 with coordinated actions around the world, from Sydney to to Brazil, in New York and Korea in support of healtcare as a human right.
In the United States National Nurses United held a major demonstration in New York City, opposite the United Nations centre, demanding an end to austerity policies and passage of the Robin Hood tax.
The proposed tax – a tiny impost on financial transactions – would reduce volatility in financial markets and provide governments with much needed revenue to fund social services including public health.
American nurses marched from the UN to the world headquarters of JP Morgan Chase, one of the world’s largest investment banks. From there they marched to the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (which has been cutting services and cutting workers), then to the State University of New York to demand that they stop closing hospitals in the city.
More than 35 unions and community and student groups marched in support of nurses.
The Brazilian Nurses’ Union – Federação Nacional dos Enfermeiros – used the global day of action to call on the Minister of Health and the President to vote on a draft law that regulates the working hours of all nursing professionals at 30 hours a week. They also launched the National Forum of Nursing Organisations to broaden the debate on issues related to working conditions and professional status.
The National Association of Nurse Auxiliaries of Honduras held picket lines at hospitals throughout the country and a major rally in front of government house in Tegucigalpa. They demanded an improvement to patient care in public hospitals, more nurses and fully funded nurse pensions.
The Canadian Federated Nurses Union and United Nurses of Alberta held a rally in Calgary, opposing attempts by the government to impose cutbacks in the health care system.
The Queensland Nurses’ Union held morning teas at hospitals across the state on September 17. They published an ad in newspapers in Queensland on the vital role of nurses and midwives in providing universal health care. They also held a tree-planting ceremony at the union’s Brisbane office to mark the first Global Nurses United day of action.
The Korean Health and Medical Union rallied to save the Jinju Medical Centre, to fight against austerity and for the rights of health workers.
The fight to save Jinju Medical Centre is seen as a test of the commitment to public health care by the government of South Gyeongsang Province. The hospital has 102 years of history of delivering health care to the poor in the area and is one of the oldest hospitals in the country.
Earlier this year three employees were hospitalised after a hunger strike protesting against the closure. A senior member of the government told the Korean Times newspaper that the hospital was to close because it “lags behind in terms of profitability”.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) marked the day with a call for the enforcement of a Robin Hood tax by all governments that apply austerity measures, and to use the proceeds from that tax to specifically improve health infrastructure. DENOSA also launched an online campaign in support of the Robin Hood tax.
The Alliance of Health Workers used the day to condemn the Aquino Government’s privatisation of public hospitals and other health services.
“This is nothing but a final step towards the abandonment of state responsibility for people’s health,” said Jossel Ebesate, the union’s national president. “Filipinos and others in developing countries can never have healthy living with the worsening economic and political situation that further deprives them of their right to health. Health, being a basic right should never be used for profit and should remain mainly as a state responsibility.”
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