The nearly 2,000 nurses within the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU), who threatened the government with industrial action last week, have put those threats on ice following a meeting between BNU executives, the Department of Labor and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).
The meeting was held last week Friday, according to the union.
BNU President Amancha Williams confirmed to Eyewitness News Monday, that industrial action over the implementation of a shift change, has been called off.
“We had a healthy discussion with the PHA and they realize that they violated our industrial agreement according to our section 39,” Williams said.
“They realize that they cannot make any decisions without consulting with the union. And so now that we are having open dialogue and now that we are getting a better understanding of the situation in its entirety, we have called off the industrial action for now.
“Right now, we have not reached a mutual understanding in regards to this shift system because they switched on us again in that meeting. They initially wanted to have the expats work this shift change, but we found out that they now want to implement this for the entire Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) staff, and then eventually introduce it to the entire Department of Health.”
She continued, “We want the government to be fair and honest with us. Every time you turn around they are coming up with a new plan. Last week, it was only for the expats, now they want to implement it for all nurses. If that is the case, then we also need to know if they now intend on paying Bahamian nurses the shift premium that will be owed to them if they work this shift change.”
Tensions within the BNU reached a boiling point last week Wednesday, after union executives caught wind that PHA held a private meeting with expatriate nurses to implement a new shift change.
The BNU claimed that PHA’s move was in breach of its industrial agreement and subsequently threated industrial action.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands told Eyewitness News last week Thursday, that he expected “civilized dialogue”, to bring some remedy to the contentious situation.
While the union has stalled its plans to execute industrial action, it has not completely ruled-out the idea of striking if its demands are not met, Williams said.
“Even though we are engaged in dialogue and have decided to hold off on the industrial action, the union will still move forward with filing our trade dispute in regards to this matter.”
Williams lamented, “we will still file the dispute because we want to be legally correct in the position that we take. We want to make sure they know they were breaching the agreement and have a record of it. There is a need to continue pushing this trade dispute forward because we still have a number of issues, aside from this one, where the government has yet to bring any resolve.”
The BNU was expected to march with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in its industrial strike today, but Williams noted that the BNU’s participation would not have been linked to last week’s industrial action threats.
“We are a part of the TUC so we will stand together with all other unions in their march,” she said.
The BNU president said the union will reconvene dialogue with PHA and labor officials sometime this week, as well as host a general meeting with its membership to discuss how it intends to move forward.