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posted 17 Nov 2015, 18:59 by Gerry Kangalee

The Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley.
Prime Minister
13-15 St Clair Avenue
Port of Spain,

Dear Sir.

The National Health Workers’ Union (NHWU) is one of the three (3) trade unions that represent monthly paid health workers employed by the five (5) Regional Health Authorities (RHA’s). Only two of the three can obtain Recognised Majority Union status which would allow for wage and all other negotiations and the NHWU is the only one organizing across all categories of monthly-paid staff. We now have hundreds of RHA employees in our membership.

We feel constrained to correspond directly to you on a matter that gravely affects thousands of monthly paid health workers. The issue at hand involves an outstanding debt owed to these workers for the period 2011 to 2013. We have written to your Minister of Finance by letters dated 2015.10.18 and 2015.10.25 but to date we have not had even the courtesy of an acknowledgment.

We have noted with great interest your Government’s appointment of a committee to investigate all aspects of the delivery of health care to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. While we have major reservations about your approach we wholeheartedly accept that urgent changes need to be implemented to reform the sector.

We believe that one of the more critical areas to be addressed is that of the human and industrial relations environment existing at all the RHA’s. The climate which exists in these areas is so debilitating that the investigation being undertaken by your Government may not yield the desired results given broken systems that masquerade for human and industrial relations.

The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that there is no trade union with recognized majority status representing monthly paid employees save the doctors employed at SWRHA. This situation seems to have given license to the managements of the RHAs to perpetrate the most atrocious HR/IR practices.

Employees’ rights and benefits are trampled upon with impunity; efforts by the union to hold meetings with them are ignored; letters are not responded to and the litany of woes goes on and on. We believe that immediate and urgent attention needs to be paid to this situation.

Mr. Larry Howai, former Minister of Finance, had given a public undertaking that retroactive payments owed to these employees arising from the pay period January 1st 2011 to December 2013 would be paid by the end of November 2015. The NHWU has tried without success to have your Minister of Finance confirm this commitment.

These workers have been very patient and their devotion to duty has not waned. We urge that your Government honour the commitment made by Mr. Howai as it was made in his official capacity and the continuance of Government, regardless of regime change, is well established.

The union is of the view that this gesture will go a long way toward building morale among these dedicated employees who work under the most trying physical, mental and emotional circumstances. A simple review of their pay package will explain their urgent desire to have this matter settled.

Dave Smith
General Secretar