Japan medical workers warn pay reduction jeopardises patient care

16 Jul 2020 Ferado

TOKYO (Reuters) – Striking medical workers at a hospital outside of Tokyo warned on Wednesday that cuts in their pay during the coronavirus epidemic would ultimately put at risk care for patients.

Medical staff at Funabashi Futawa Hospital were the first to resort to action over reduction in their summer bonuses, when they held a one-day strike last week.

The hospital’s labour union, which includes doctors, nurses, rehabilitation specialists and other auxiliary staff, plans a series of demonstrations, without fully withdrawing their labour as it would jeopardise treatment of patients.

Dr Yuko Yanagisawa described how workers struggled through the spring months, making their own face shields, only to find out that their summer bonuses were being cut.

“We can’t endure it any longer,” she told reporters, referring to the management’s decision.

“We have to prepare for a second wave of the coronavirus without being concerned about tension and anxiety at the worksite.”

Funabashi Futawa Hospital did not respond to a request for comment.

Hospitals and clinics reducing their staff’s bonuses have had their income substantially reduced as fewer people are seeking regular medical services during the epidemic.

“Quite a few medical institutions are receiving loans from the government’s public finance organisation to pay their bills,” said Toshihiko Yamazaki, a doctor and representative of the Japan Federation of Insurance Medical Associations.

“It is thought that some medical institutions will actually go out of business in a few months’ time.”

For all the signs of financial strain in Japan’s healthcare system, the issue so far has not created any major public backlash for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government.

Union chief Emi Iida said the coronavirus exacerbated a trend of declining worker compensation as hospitals prioritized investment in equipment over people. Japanese workers typically receive bi-annual bonuses equivalent to one or two months pay.

Two thirds of hospitals in the country are now operating in financial deficit, according to a paper last month by the Japan Hospital Association. As a result, about a third of the nation’s medical institutions are cutting summer bonuses, according to the Japan Federation of Medical Worker’s Unions.

Maldives: Free Speech, Assembly Under Threat

TheMaldives government is enforcing restrictions on protests that violate fundamental rights, Human Rights Watch said today. New regulations also threaten civil society groups for supporting peaceful protests.

Migrant workers who have gone unpaid for months since the outbreak of Covid-19 have protested their living and work conditions as inhumane. About 100,000 migrant workers work in the Maldives, most from Bangladesh, working in the construction and tourism industries, which have been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Maldives president campaigned on a promise to abolish laws curtailing free speech and assembly, but now his ministers are resorting to the previous government’s old tricks to prevent protests,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director. “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused enormous challenges for the Maldives, but instead of hearing out these desperate migrant workers, the Solih administration is trying to silence them by restricting peaceful assembly.”

On July 14, 2020, the Home Affairs Ministry declared that street protests and marches could only be held with prior written approval from the Maldives Police Service, except in one closed-off location in the capital, Malé. The ministry said it was acting in accordance with the 2016 Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act, which the previous government enacted to crack down on the media and civil society.

At the time the party of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had condemned the amendment as unconstitutional and an abuse of power. But after the 2018 presidential election the government balked at annulling the amendment, although it was seldom enforced until now.

In addition, the Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Ministry stated on July 14 that nongovernmental organizations should not support “actions that are detrimental to national security and national interests.” The statement followed news releases and a petition by civil society organizations in support of the migrant laborers.

The Solih administration has failed to act against violent ultra-nationalist or Islamist groups that have threatened or tried to shut down activist organizations. Instead, in November 2019, the government actually closed down the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), the country’s leading human rights organization, which was facing threats and allegations of blasphemy by Islamist gangs.

The Maldives government is obligated under international human rights law to respect and uphold the right of everyone in the country to peacefully protest and freely receive and disseminate all types of information. Concerned governments should press the Maldives to protect the rights to peaceful expression and assembly.

“The Solih administration should not allow the added burdens of governance during a pandemic to reduce its commitment to basic human rights,” Gossman said. “Government officials need to hear all voices, especially the critical ones.”

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