Authority said despite generous offer by the PM, union continued strike
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) said yesterday it was “totally disingenuous” of the Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) to give the public the perception that Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands has attempted to insist that the union sign an agreement that deducts an amount due to them.
More than 400 junior doctors withdrew services last Wednesday, forcing Princess Margaret Hospital in New Providence, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama to suspend non-emergency services.
In a statement yesterday, the BDU said the payout during negotiations was cut in half; and 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.”
In a statement, the PHA said it entered into discussion with the junior doctors to settle the issue of holiday pay approximately eight months ago. It said while both parties negotiated in good faith during that period, the major “sticking point” was the means to independently verify that each junior doctors engaged in providing services on each of the 47 holidays over the period in question; identifying the number of hours worked; and the number of installments over which the ultimate agreement compensation would be paid.
“As there were no means of identifying each junior doctor or the specific number of hours worked each holiday due to junior doctors not utilizing the swipe system, the PHA recommended, and the BDU agreed to accept a payout that applied an across-the-board settlement to all junior doctors employed by the PHA,” the authority said.
“Under this arrangement, holiday pay compensation would be based on length of service during the period under review, rather than actual hours worked on holidays by each junior doctor.”
The PHA determined that on average, it required the full time equivalent of 108 junior doctors to work over the course of a 24-hour period on a holiday.
It said the union accepted this, and using the guiding information, along with the hourly base rate applied to junior doctors, the PHA calculated the full cost to engage the services of 108 junior doctors at double time was $5.97 million.
The PHA said it recognized, however, that while the full cost amounted to $5.96 million gross, each junior doctor would have received in their pay packages each month where a holiday fell, a portion of the double pay in the form of eight hours of base pay, which covered the initial eight hours of work they engaged in during their required 24-hour shift.
The PHA said the value of the first eight hours of work for each junior doctor over the holidays incurred accumulated to $995,708.
“Given the fact that this amount had already been paid to the junior doctors over the period in question, the PHA advised the BDU that this amount needed to be deducted from the gross figure of $5.97 million, resulting in a net payable of $4.98 million,” the authority said.
“This explanation was provided to the BDU and was accepted by them by way of a letter dated May 14 2019.
“The PHA finds it totally disingenuous of the BDU to give the Bahamian public the perception that the Minister of Health is now attempting to insist that they sign an agreement that deducts an amount that is due them.”
The PHA said it proposed the $4.98 million being paid over six semi-annual installments, and the BDU countered with four. Another offer of five installments was made as a compromise, according to the PHA, which said despite the offer being extended in June, the junior doctors went on strike two months later.
The prime minister met the unions on Saturday and assured the BDU that the funds would be paid in two installments, but the union still did not accept the offer and made “even further demands of the PHA”.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes has referred the matter to the Industrial Tribunal.