By Roshanak Astaraki

Some 536 nurses who were hired on an 89-day fixed-term contract during the peak of the coronavirus epidemic in the northern province of Gilan, and who are now in danger of losing their jobs, have said they would file a formal complaint against the Ministry of Health and Medical Education with Iran’s Administrative Court, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.

The government has increased the number of 89-day fixed-term contracts in recent years. Such contracts provide no job security, workplace insurance, or benefits to nurses.

In recent weeks, some state and private hospitals and health clinics have fired many of their nurses on fixed-term and permanent contracts.

At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, Arsalan Salari, the President of the Gilan University of Medical Sciences, warned of a severe shortage of nurses in the province. In the end, the university hospitals and clinics in Gilan hired 536 nurses. The neighboring province of Mazandaran, which had one of the highest numbers of coronavirus infections, also hired some 200 nurses.

“In a letter, the president of the Gilan University of Medical Sciences has called for settling the accounts for all the volunteer nurses who were hired in Mazandaran on an 89-day contract,” Mohammad Hosseinpour, a nurse and a union activist told ILNA. “In contrast, nurses in Gilan had refused to sign these contracts. They have evidence and documents to file a collective grievance with the Administrative Court.”

In comments reported by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on May 21, the Spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kiyanoush Jahanpour, said: “The initial plan called for hiring unemployed nurses on an 89-day contract. These are short-term legal contracts that end on a set date. There is no legal obligation to renew them.”

“President [Hassan Rouhani] and Minister of Health and Medical Sciences [Dr. Saeed Namaki] have ordered that nurses who worked during the coronavirus epidemic on an 89-day contract will be given priority hiring once recruitment permits are issued,” Dr. Jahanpour added.

“The dean of the Gilan University of Medical Sciences’ Nursing School has, however, rejected the claim that unemployed nurses had been hired,” Mr. Hosseinpour noted. “We know of 231 nurses working at private hospitals and clinics in other cities when they were recruited in Gilan Province.”

“The Gilan University of Medical Sciences tried to hire some nurses on an 89-day contract, but no one signed up to the scheme,” Hosseinpour added.

On May 12, which marks International Nurses Day, nurses across Iran staged protests in front of the Ministry of Health’s office in their respective provinces, including Fars, Yazd, Lorestan, Hamedan, Qazvin, and Mazandaran.

This article was translated and adapted from Persian by Fardine Hamidi.

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