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NHWU: CHAOS AND CONFUSION MUST STOP OVER SHIFT ISSUE

posted 16 Mar 2015, 18:34 by Gerry Kangalee
On 2015/03/16, the National Health Workers Union published the following statement:

Recently, there has been a disruptive and unnecessary conflict over the issue of shift arrangements for nursing personnel in SWRHA.

On Wednesday 25th February the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) met the SWRHA CEO, Mr. Anil Gosine and his team, to discuss the problem. The NHWU had a ten member delegation which was made up of four nursing personnel and other staff reps at this long delayed meeting. At the meeting, management was asked: What were the reasons that brought about the push to change the established working arrangements?   What were the objectives trying to be achieved?   What were the proposals on the table at that time?

The CEO explained that the management was requested to “implement” the terms of the Individual Contracts of nursing personnel. When pressed for details he indicated that the specifics were: an 8 hour work day; two clear days off after night shift.

Management was questioned on who made the request to “implement” the contract and also if the contract states an 8 hour work day then where did the 12 hour roster come from? Ms. Franka Ollivere-Andrews stated that “a group of nurses and their representative association” had meetings with the management to press for these changes. She further stated that the 12 hour shift arrangement was no longer being explored.

The Nursing personnel on the union’s team questioned who was this “group” of nursing personnel that made the request? When did these consultations take place? Who did they consult? They all explained that none of their colleagues ever mentioned being part of or being informed of those discussions. On being questioned Ms. Ollivere-Andrews stated nursing personnel are required to work 160 hours per month.

The union’s team questioned why wasn’t there a detailed document coming from the HR department explaining the proposal and rationale for the changes, as “hours of work” is one of the most fundamental principles of Industrial Relations. The team further stated further that it was totally unfair to have Nursing Administration personnel explaining contract issues as many may not be versed in that area.

It seems that HR is quite content to shift their responsibilities to nursing administrators who, instead of being facilitated in carrying out their task of ensuring proper health care, are being forced to carry out the tasks of other departments. This is totally unfair and a waste of precious time, particularly in a situation where, according to the CEO, there are vacancies for 700 nursing personnel.

The HR spokespersons at the meeting offered the weak excuse that the nursing body is too large for the HR department to communicate with.

When asked what the present situation was seeing that the SWRHA administration had indicated that changes would be effected from 1st March, 2015, Ms. Franka Ollivere-Andrews stated that the roster being developed will have 4 features:

(a) 2 clear days off after night shift whenever the staffing levels permit

(b) 8 hour shifts

(c) 40 hours work week

(d) 160 hours per month.

NHWU representatives vigorously objected stating that off-days must be given when due. The NHWU team argued that the arithmetic did not add up. If there are 5 work days, 1 rest day  and 2 days off, that alone amounts to 8 days while the calendar week only consists of 7 days. If the rest day is Sunday and Monday and Tuesday are off-days, this will leave only 4 days in the week to get the 40 hours.

The team further explained that Continuous Shift workers throughout industry have shift rotations called cycles. These cycles dictate how they work. A cycle begins on the first day of work after your last “Off-Day” and ends on the last “Off-Day”. A cycle is not limited to the 7 day weekly cycle.

The “Work-Week” however, remains 7 days. Since Nursing Personnel are salary rated i.e. their pay is determined by a fixed sum per month then it is futile to have the work week fixed at 40 hours per week. Indeed if shift personnel were to work 40 hours every week they would in fact be working over 13 hrs extra per month. The 160 hours per month can be achieved by having alternating cycles of 32 hours and 40 hours of work.

Ms. Franka Ollivere-Andrews agreed with the union’s submissions and further stated that the nursing administration is working on a similar structure. The NHWU team sought to have the management confirm the critical elements that could resolve the scheduling issue i.e.

(1) all shifts will be of 8 hour duration

(2)160 hours are to be worked per month

(3) hours per week will not exceed 40hrs.

(4) overtime rates to be applied on extra hours.

 

The NHWU made it abundantly clear that while the principles outlined above should represent the norm we know that there are special circumstances e.g. safety, personal issues, study, organizational needs etc. that may dictate variations, once agreed, being made. Management claimed they accepted those points but refused to put it in writing as they claimed that there are two other unions to deal with on site.

 The NHWU suggested that this proposal must be given to all nursing personnel to vote upon since their contracts could not be changed unilaterally and their individual consent must be sought to do so. After two hours of discussions and general consensus that the projections made by the Union were logical and sensible, management resisted signing off a bilateral agreement.

The National Health Workers Union sees it as its duty to inform, educate and get a consensus for the benefit of the nursing professionals at SWRHA. To this end we are actively seeking a meeting with the nursing administration. Pamphlets will be produced on a regular basis as discussions develop until we finally arrive at a point wherein stress levels can subside, nurses can plan their social life and the business of caring for patients can be professionally done. Chaos and confusion must stop!


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