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NHWU: NO GAMES! WAGE INCREASES NOW! ORGANISE FOR RMU STATUS!

posted 8 Jul 2015, 19:58 by Gerry Kangalee
The following statement was published by the National Health Workers Union. It is dated 2015/07/09:

NO GAMES! WAGE INCREASES NOW! ORGANISE FOR RMU STATUS!

Comrades, all the RHAs are in great confusion about the status of our salary increases. Rumours run wild about whether we will be getting any increases in salary and if so when. Public Servants have negotiated a 14% salary increase. It is being implemented now and all employees of the Ministry of Health are being paid.

We, the monthly paid employees of the RHAs, have been misled for years into believing that Public Officers’ negotiations were also RHA negotiations and agreements arrived between the Chief Personnel Officer and the PSA were binding on the RHAs. The NHWU has been at pains advising health workers that this is not so. RHA employees are not public officers! Neither the Minister of Finance nor his agent, the CPO, is our employer and consequently cannot negotiate or agree to terms and conditions applicable to us.

In the NHWU’s bulletin “Get Organised” dated 10th September 2014 we explained the legal provisions in the Industrial Relations Act (Section 38 [4]) which debars the PSA from achieving Recognised Majority Union (RMU) status for health workers. The PSA, therefore, cannot negotiate salaries, allowances, pensions, health plan, performance appraisals etc. for us. If the majority of health workers do not join a union which can achieve RMU status then the Master and Servant relationship that exists between the RHAs and us will persist.

The NHWU explained why the RHAs grant increases negotiated by the PSA to us. Those who were formerly employed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and transferred to the RHA’s and those who were seconded from the MOH continue to be represented by the PSA (Regional Health Authority Act Sect 31). Those persons work alongside RHA employees and it would be untenable to have two persons doing the same job and getting different rates. Therefore, the Authorities extended the salary increases to us, their employees. However they were never legally obligated to do so. In the early days there were hundreds of former MOH employees; today they number just a handful. Soon there will be none and the contradiction will no longer exist.

This situation is now fully exposed by the apparent refusal of the Minister of Health and the RHAs to sign off on any document pledging to increase health workers salaries. If there was any legally enforceable agreement (such as a collective agreement) between the PSA and the RHAs there would be no need to beg or protest. All the PSA would have had to do was refer the agreement to the Industrial Court which would order its immediate implementation or the RHA’s would be fined for contempt of Court. This cannot happen because there is no legally enforceable collective agreement.

What is even more pathetic is the claim by the leader of the PSA that the Minister of Health was influenced not to sign because the NHWU is organising health workers. During the 1990’s, the then-NAR government removed COLA and cut public officers’ salary by ten (10%). This was done in Parliament by a government with a thirty-three to three majority. The very PSA challenged this in the courts and won, relying on the power of having a signed and registered agreement. Today they are saying that the Minister vetoed their “agreement”. If that outlandish statement is true, then they can repeat history, can’t they?

Comrades, the NHWU expects that we will be paid the fourteen (14%) per cent and all retroactive payments. This expectation is based on a memo dated July 02 2015 from Kumar Boodram, Chief Executive Officer of the NCRHA to all heads of department at Eric Williams and Mount Hope Women’s Hospital.  

The memo states: “The Human Resource Department has begun preparatory work to facilitate the implementation of the 14% agreement between the Public Services Association and the Chief Personnel Officer and the Doctor’s agreement with MPATT. In order to complete the exercise in a timely manner the Human Resource Department will be accommodating request/queries from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon daily during the period Thursday July 02 2015 to August 31st 2015.” Take note that there is no announced date of implementation, but any games by the Minister and others pretending to settle and sign a bogus agreement must be seen for what it is – GAMES! If the RHAs fail to hold fast to their promise then there must be all out war. We are not afraid of war!

The ironic thing is that on 15th March 2015, more than four months ago, the NHWU wrote to Anil Gosine CEO of SWRHA and called on the Board and management:

1) You urgently implement increases to all monthly rated employees who were employed directly by SWRHA of not less than the amounts publicly stated by the CPO. This we expect should be done no later than April, 2015 month’s end. This must be done expeditiously as these workers have been subsisting on 2010 salaries and this should be corrected immediately.

2) These increases be extended to all categories of “non-permanent” workers, inclusive of those described as temporary, contract (of whatever duration) etc. You are fully aware that most of them have been holding down permanent positions in the establishment for many years.

3) Full retroactive pay for the entire period be made to all employees described in (1) and (2), this should be effected not later than May, 2015 month’s end.

4) Detailed statements to ALL employees indicating (a) the amount of each and every increase in benefits that is to be applied and for each respective year. (b) a breakdown of sums calculated for each benefit for each year for each employee. (c) these statements must be distributed before payments are made so that employees will be able to more accurately calculate their entitlements and be aware of the basis for your calculations."

If these hard-headed political hacks in management had listened to the voice of reason, none of this stupidness would be taking place today.

Why is it after fifteen years the monthly paid health workers don’t have a collective agreement? If we wait another fifteen years doing the same thing will we get one? Do you know that your Daily-Paid colleagues have one? Have you ever heard them wonder whether or when they will get their increases?

Comrades, it is crystal clear that there has been an awful lot of misinformation which was innocent in some cases and quite deliberate in others. There has also been quite a lot of bitterness and acrimony over the years but we cannot let these things define the rest of our lives. Are we prepared to withstand the torment and humiliation that is meted out to so many of us year after year under the guise of Performance Appraisal? Our pension plan is in dire need of upgrade, must we sit idly by and have our retirement result in even greater hardship than during our working life?  

Will we ever have a health plan? Will we continue to have our colleagues who are on contract or temporary exploited after ten and twelve years of continuous employment? Shouldn’t they be afforded the opportunity of being able to plan their lives and even secure a long term loan? All of these benefits must be either negotiated or given to us by the RHA’s; do we think that will happen in our collective lifetimes? Current events prove quite clearly those who have agreements get increases, those without have worry, hope and beg. ANALYSE, DECIDE AND ACT!

Is the sense of vulnerability and despair we are experiencing over the long overdue increases confined to any one category of staff or are we all united in the uncertainty? ANALYSE, DECIDE AND ACT!

Join NHWU and achieve RMU status. Join NHWU and get a Collective Agreement to enhance and secure our rights and benefits. The delivery of consistent quality health care requires just and fair terms and conditions for all health workers and is the business of all categories of workers. NHWU welcome all categories of health workers into our ranks except those represented by recognized majority unions.

2015/07/09

Published and printed by the National Health Workers Union

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