Labour minister refers BDU strike to Industrial Tribunal

Labour minister refers BDU strike to Industrial Tribunal

Withdrawal of service by 400-plus junior doctors, forces PMH to suspend non-emergency services

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As more than 400 junior doctors continue to withdraw their services, primarily over matters surrounding holiday pay owed since 2014, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said today that he has referred the matter to the Industrial Tribunal as the strike action over the employer’s failure to pay employees holiday pay has “threatened the public interest.”

“Pursuant to Section 76 of the Industrial Relations Act, I have considered that the strike action taken as a result of the strike certificate issued on the 19th [of] December 2018 relative to a trade dispute filed on the 25th [of] September 2018 concerning the issue of the employer’s failure to pay employees’ holiday pay in accordance with the industrial agreement and the Employment Act, has affected and threatened the public interest,” the minister said in a statement.

“I have, therefore, referred the dispute, which has given rise to the strike action to the Industrial Tribunal. In accordance with the said act, all parties to the dispute have been notified in writing.”

Last Friday, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) advised that as a result of the action, PMH, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, Rand Memorial Hospital and Grand Bahama Clinics will “only be treating emergency cases at this time”.

“The authority deeply regrets the impact of the withdrawal of service by members of the Bahamas Doctors Union on hospital services and patient care,” the PHA said. “The PHA will continue to keep members of the public informed as regards the full resumption of services.”

In a statement today, BDU President Dr. Melisande Bassett said junior doctors were continuing action, noting that it has taken 10 years of failed negotiations before the junior doctors withdrew services.

Bassett said in an effort toward conciliation, the BDU conceded six year of holiday pay — money owed in excess of $10 million — as it realized the “financial burden this posed on the public purse.” It said the payout during negotiations was cut in half; the union gave the government non-monetary concessions as alternatives for payment, inclusive of improved insurance or one-time tax waivers and construction of a parking garage.

The union said while the government has recognized that the money is owed, the union has been unable to sign an agreement with health officials because Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands “insists that he is entitled to make deductions from those funds”.

The BDU said it was advised by its legal counsel it would be foolish to agree to such terms.