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posted 18 Mar 2016, 06:34 by Gerry Kangalee




The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) is dismayed and angered by the treatment being meted out to health workers as it applies to their retroactive payments.

Not only are health workers being denied their legitimate entitlements, but are being discriminated against by the state in that other groups of workers have received their retroactive entitlements and the Minister of Finance recently assured police officers that they will receive their backpay by June/ July.

Where is the assurance for health workers? Are health workers the stepchildren of the public sector?

We are considered essential service workers according to the Industrial Relations Act and are consequently prohibited from taking industrial action in pursuit of our legitimate grievances, but when it comes to remunerating us in a timely and just fashion all pretence at being essential goes through the window.

The National Health Workers Union has pointed out time and again that while we are working on 2013 salaries (three years behind what they are supposed to be), our retroactive payments period goes back to 2011.

Former Minister of Finance Larry Howai had given a public undertaking that health workers’ backpay would have been paid by the end of November 2015. But of course he demitted office before that date. We wrote to Minister Imbert on 2015.09.18, mere days after he was sworn in, and later on 2015.10.25, informing him of the debt and making out the case for those monies to be paid immediately and critically in our second letter we warned him against his open bias against the debt owed to workers.

Minister Imbert has remained silent on the issue. We raised the issue in a letter to Prime Minister Rowley dated 2015/11/13. Again – deathly silence. It has become clear that in the estimation of governments, past and present, health care workers count for nothing and are treated with scant courtesy, indeed, gross disrespect, when it comes to satisfying our material interests. Of course, when it is election time, politicians fall all over themselves courting our votes.

Meanwhile, foreign health care company O’Grady Peyton is extremely busy recruiting our nursing staff for jobs in the United States. Given our deteriorating standard of living and the cavalier manner in which we are treated by our employers, many of our nursing personnel have accepted and are accepting these offers. This widening of the gap between approved positions in the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) and the quantity of jobs actually filled will lead to a further deterioration of the quality of health care on offer at the RHAs.

At the Public Board meeting of the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) on 2016/03/03, Chief Executive Officer, Anil Gosine, reported that there were 3,372 vacancies at SWRHA. He lamented: “The clinical ratio to patient continues to be a challenge…there is a major challenge with respect to retention and attraction of staff within our Medical (Specialized), Nursing Allied and Operational Services.”

Among the reasons for the growing exodus of staff is the disrespect shown to medical professionals by the State, including the failure to pay our health care workers their long-outstanding retroactive payments.

The National Health Workers Union calls upon the government to seriously consider, particularly in these challenging economic times, whether it is more cost effective for public funds to adequately compensate existing local staff than to train replacements or worse yet to recruit foreign staff.

The National Health Workers Union, once again, calls upon the Minister of Finance to state clearly and unambiguously when health care personnel are going to be paid their retroactive entitlements.


Keish Murrell   716 8762