PHA refutes BPSU “stall tactics” claims

PHA refutes BPSU “stall tactics” claims
Public Hospitals Authority (PHA)

Authority says it remains committed to negotiations

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) yesterday strongly rejected the Bahamas Public Service Union’s (BPSU) assertion that the authority has continuously postponed negotiations for a new industrial agreement — a move the union speculated was a stall tactic.

In a statement yesterday, the Public Hospitals Authority said it agreed with the union to strict confidentiality concerning matters discussed as part of ongoing negotiations, and while it has honored that agreement it was “disappointing” the union had not done the same.

The PHA said while it will continue to honor the confidentiality of discussions, it felt obligated to respond to Ferguson’s assertions regarding the postponement of meetings.

“The PHA categorically denies these claims,” the authority said.

“At the onset of negotiations, both parties agreed to specific conditions to ensure a proper, cordial engagement over the terms of the negotiation period, including a separation of negotiations into non-financial and financial matters.

Speaking to The Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Public Services Union President Kimsley Ferguson said the union is requesting two lump sum payments and a salary review in negotiations for a new industrial agreement.

But the union president said negotiation meetings had been repeatedly postponed.

He expressed concern that there might be some stall tactics taking place.

The union was expected to meet with the authority on Friday.

Ferguson said, “I am very concerned because there are Bahamians out there who have the challenge of preparing their kids for going back to school and they need relief, they need assistance.

“So, we’re going to agitate and we don’t want to have to take any extreme measures that is going to affect the operation of the Public Hospitals Authority or the public service.”

The union president appealed to the authority to see reason and “arrive at a reasonable resolve”.

According to Feguson, the union is seeking a $350 increase, another $200 increase and a lump sum payment of $3,500 in addition to a salary review.

Yesterday, the PHA said the non-financial teams were intended to meet every other Friday.

It said the first of those meetings was held in November 2018, and it was agreed that the next meeting would take place on January 11 due to the holiday season.

It said since then 12 such meetings have taken place, though some of them took place on alternative dates due to scheduling conflicts on both sides.

The authority said only one meeting was cancelled due to a no-show by the union, while four other meetings were mutually agreed to postpone.

“There were no instances where the PHA acted alone and cancelled any negotiation meeting,” the PHA said, adding the last non-financial meeting took place on July 30.

Ferguson also claimed negotiations with the Ministry of Public Services had come to a halt, noting that the last meeting was two and a half months ago.

Additionally, the union is seeking increases, lump sum payments and a salary review for its members in the public service.

Meanwhile, it said the financial teams agreed to meet twice per month with the first meeting scheduled for August 9 — a meeting that was “regrettably” deferred in order to allow personnel to attend a function to support a senior official.

The PHA said while it requested a deferment, it offered options to the union to make up for the meeting.

The authority said it remains committed to negotiation with the BPSU and other stakeholders as it recognizes the importance of collaborative agreement to ensure that employee benefits are maximized within the financial constraints of the PHA.