Nurses on the brink of striking

Amancha Williams

Williams: “Why are you trying to drive us to that?”

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While acknowledging that an all-out withdrawal of nurses labour would bring the healthcare system to its knees, Bahamas Nurses Union President (BNU)  Amancha Williams said yesterday that the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) and the government have pushed frustrated nurses to the brink of industrial action.

In a letter addressed to staff, dated March 27, the PHA advised that due to “extenuating circumstances, overtime payments due for the month of February 2019 to Princess Margaret Hospital staff was unable to be paid as part of our regular payroll cycle”.

It continued: “We are currently working on processing these overtime payments and anticipate that these will be available by manual voucher by April 5, 2019.

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused as a result and will keep you informed of any changes in the information provided above.”

The letter was signed by Deputy Managing Director Lyrone Burrows.

Yesterday, Williams said the union feels compelled to take action to demonstrate how serious it is.

She said when nurses sacrifice and work 16 hours in a high-pressure environment that requires professionalism and excellence, they expect the same of their employer.

The BNU president said what nurses have received instead is a “level of disrespect that is disappointing”.

“You have some islands with the nurses working 24/7, around the clock,” she said.

“You come to their door at 2:00 a.m. and they have to serve you; plus you have to go back in the clinic at 9:00 a.m. to open to serve the public.

She continued, “The type of messages I am getting… from the nurses are they are tired.

“… We are saying to them, why are you trying to drive us to that?

“You don’t have staff now, so imagine what happens if we strike.

“This country will be in a serious state.”

“… At the end of the day, why not do things the right way.

“You are adding more stress and causing the morale of the workers to go down.

“People are getting fed up the management.

Williams thanked the public for their continued support and said the fight of the nurses is not intended to disadvantage them, but to bring about fairness for hard-working professionals.

The issue of overtime payments was thrown into the spotlight last week when Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands revealed PHA had a $750,000 overtime bill for one month.

At the time, he dismissed suggestions from the union that it had reached an impasse with the PHA over new shift system the authority sought to implement last December.

Williams maintained yesterday that there have been no discussions of shift system since Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis met with a number of unions last November.

The new shift was announced last November.

Nurses working between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. would be paid an additional $1.75 per hour.

According to Williams, the union did not have to fight for overtime, due to workers, under the Ingraham administration or Christie administration, saying nurses “never had problems with their overtime money until now”.

The union hopes to get an increase for nurses in its industrial agreement,

The existing agreement comes to an end in 2020.

Williams also said she expected the government to review the pay scale for nurses as it finalized its upcoming budget.

She said, “I want the government to treat us fairly and give us what we deserve.”