* Agreement ends months-long row over salaries hikes
* Wages to rise in three stages by 2013 to 1,769 euros
By Martin Santa
BRATISLAVA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Slovakia’s government and healthcare unions have struck a deal to end a months-long dispute over wage hikes and avert the collapse of the country’s medical facilities, the prime minister said on Saturday.
About one-fifth of the euro zone country’s 7,000 doctors walked off their jobs on Thursday, demanding that their wages be brought closer to western European standards.
As the dispute escalated, Prime Minister Iveta Radicova’s outgoing centre-right government called a state of emergency at 15 hospitals this week, forcing staff to show up under threat of penalties.
“We have reached a deal after tough and long negotiations,” an exhausted-looking Radicova told reporters Saturday, following overnight talks with doctors’ representatives.
The agreement guarantees a gradual increase of doctors’ gross monthly salaries in three stages, up to 1,769 euros ($2,370) in 2013. That is about 500 euros short of the unions’ requests.
Salaries of some doctors were currently at around 1,500 euros, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Unions stress the figure would include overtime and other extra work.
However, the average monthly pay in the healthcare sector is about half that amount.
“We will continue to watch further steps by the government very closely, and also ones by the future government,” union leader Marian Kollar told reporters.
Slovakia, facing a deteriorating economic outlook, holds an early election in March. The central European country has pledged austerity measures to cut the fiscal deficit to below 3 percent of the gross domestic product in 2013. (Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo.)