Sat, May 12, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Nurses owed NT$3.7bn in overtime per year: union

OVERWORK:Besides overtime and shift changes, a survey showed that ‘invisible working hours’ for nurses at medical centers included having to attend meetings or take classes

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

An anonymous nurse participates in a news conference held by the Taiwan Nurses Union at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday to protest overwork.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

The Taiwan Nurses Union yesterday said it estimates that overtime pay owed to nurses by medical centers in Taiwan each year totals about NT$3.7 billion (US$124.27 million).

On the eve of International Nurses Day, the union released the results of its latest survey on nurses’ working conditions.

The survey, which was conducted from March 1 to April 20, received 459 valid responses. The respondents had an average of 7.77 years working in the nursing profession, with 45.8 percent of them employed at medical centers.

Union director Jane Lu (盧孳豔) said that January revisions to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) added flexibility to the “one fixed day off, one flexible rest day” rule, while the survey showed that nurses on the day shift at medical centers worked an average of 9.91 hours.

The nurses did not get overtime pay for the additional two hours of work performed, Lu said, adding that it was probably considered as “doing good deeds.”

“If we do a calculation based on an hourly wage of NT$200 and about 35,200 medical center nurses, then the medical centers would owe the nurses about NT$3.7 billion per year,” she added.

The union said that the process of transferring patient responsibility from the outgoing shift of nurses to the new shift is an important job, but 85 percent of survey respondents said the handover time is not counted as working hours, with 78 percent saying that they usually arrive earlier than their shift to do preparation work.

Other “invisible working hours” included having to attend meetings or take classes during annual leave, the survey showed.

The labor regulations limit the maximum number of working hours, but the survey showed that nurse-to-patient ratios seem to have worsened as a result, while a higher ratio can lead to poor quality care for the patients and overwork for the nurses.

Lu said the union is calling on the Ministry of Health and Welfare to propose a specialized act regulating nurse-to-patient ratios for improved care quality, the Ministry of Labor to invite union representatives to accompany officials in labor inspections nationwide and both ministries to come up with more efficient strategies for encouraging nurses to join labor unions.

There are more than 160,000 nurses in Taiwan, with about 80 percent working in medical facilities, so the ministry takes the issue seriously and encourages nurses to join unions, said Chen Ching-mei (陳青梅), a senior specialist with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, adding that the ministry has established a platform on which nurses can report workplace disputes.

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