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posted 14 Jan 2015, 18:39 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Jan 2015, 18:51 ]
On January 14th 2015 the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) issued the following statement to its members at the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA):


The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) met for nearly two hours on Thursday 8th January at Level 8 of the San Fernando Teaching Hospital with the Chief Executive Officer of the South West Regional Authority (SWRHA) Anil Gosine and members of the human resource and industrial relations department. The NHWU is affiliated to the National Workers Union (NWU). The National Workers Union provides human and material resources, technical expertise in terms of organising, industrial relations, training, education, research and publications to its affiliates, including the NHWU.

The union team was led by NWU President Frank Sears, and NWU executive members Sylvan Wilson and Gerry Kangalee, registered nurse Carlanne St. John and medical orderlies, Andy Acosta and Marlon Clement. The latter three are employees of SWRHA based at the San Fernando General Hospital and activists of the NHWU deeply involved in building the union. ENA Arlene Maillard was absent from the meeting because of illness.

It should be noted that to build a union from scratch is a humongous task, but the experiences health workers have gone through make it absolutely necessary to build a health workers union for the thousands of workers, both at the RHAs and in the private medical industry. As workers keep streaming into the NHWU, departmental shop steward elections will be held. The shop stewards elected will undergo training and will be responsible fordealing with workers grievances throughout the stages of the procedure. The medical orderlies will soon elect their shop steward.

Gosine headed a SWRHA team that included Debra Singh Khan who heads the human resource department, Dan Mahabirsingh and Rawl George from the industrial relations department.

The meeting was an introductory meeting to inform the CEO and the Human Resources/ Industrial Relations Department of the concerns the NHWU will be pursuing in advancing the interests of its members and to work out the ground rules for the interaction of the union with management.

The union team raised the issues of the need for clear lines of communication between both parties, particularly as it took four written requests from the union before Gosine agreed to meet with the union. It was accepted by Gosine’s team that their Human Resources Department would be responsible for ensuring that communication channels with the union would be clear.

Marlon Clement was part of the NHWU team

The need for a proper structuring of dispute procedures and protocols for handling workers grievances on the basis of an agreed-on grievance procedure was placed on the agenda by the union and suggested that it be based on the procedure contained in the collective agreement negotiated for the daily paid by NUGFW. The union has undertaken to submit a draft specimen so that this most important matter may be expedited.

The union requested co-operation from management in terms of facilitating training for union representatives and clearance for non-SWRHA-based union officers to visit the various compounds on official business. Management agreed that such normal courtesies would be extended to the union

The issue of security and safety was discussed at length. The union pointed out the need for a thorough security review at SWRHA, especially in the light of incidents where workers ended up in harm’s way through threats, abductions etc., also the question of car-park security, inadequate lighting and placement of security cameras. The union suggested that a security task force be set up including the two security companies, SWRHA’s in -house security and union representatives to carry out that task.

Anil Gosine SWRHA CEO

Other issues discussed were clarification of the process used by SWRHA in making salary adjustments. The union expressed its great disapproval of management’s poor industrial relations practice of unilaterally varying workers’ entitlements e.g. reducing vacation leave by the number of casual days workers take and discriminatory practices as they apply to workers who have been hospitalised beyond their 14 day sick leave entitlement.

The union team had to bouff management for refusing to comply with the request of a member of the RHA Pension Plan for documents relating to the plan (trust deed and rules, financial statements, actuarial reports). The law as contained in the Insurance Act (1980) clearly spells out that all workers are entitled to these documents upon request. Management seemed unaware of the provisions of the law.

The union team put management on notice that it viewed the issue of contract labour (particularly short term contract labour) as the most burning issue affecting a large group of SWRHA’s employees. It was pointed out that hundreds of workers are at a severe disadvantage when it came to planning their progression in life without job security as these workers found it impossible to negotiate loans for housing, for ensuring their children’s education and for acquiring household necessities among other needs.  So-called contract workers were also excluded from the Pension Plan and even if they eventually become “permanent” and eligible to join the Pension Plan, the service they had before they became permanent would not be counted as service in the plan. It must be noted that the formula for calculating workers’ pension is based on a worker’s final salary and on his years of service.

The meeting concluded on the note that the union would submit its position on the grievance procedure and other matters raised, so that discussion with Human Resources could begin and mechanisms for resolving issues could be hammered out and actions on the matters discussed could be expedited.


For further information on joining the union call Arlene Maillard 725 8950; Carlanne St. John 308 0938; Marlon Clement 398 8050; Andy Acosta 335 4435.