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posted 7 Aug 2015, 15:48 by Gerry Kangalee
The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) wrote the following letter to the Minister of Finance, Larry Howai:


Senator, the Honourable Larry Howai
Minister of Finance and the Economy
Eric Williams Finance Building
Independence Square,
Port of Spain

Dear Sir,
The National Health Workers’ Union (NHWU) is one of the three (3) trade unions that are representing 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.

The NHWU has noted with keen interest statements attributed to you via various media houses in relation to salary adjustments for those workers and we wish to make the following observations/comments.

1) You are cited as saying that the monthly rated staff will receive their salary increases by September 2015 and resulting retroactive payments by November 2015. We have consulted with our membership and they find this to be totally unacceptable.

The period being addressed is 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2013. This means that the last period for which these workers would have had a salar
y increase would be January 1st 2010. These workers have been subsisting on 2010 salaries for more than five years and most importantly they have not had any increases for the entire life of the current administration. This is quite contrary to the boasts of you and your Cabinet colleagues. This, the NHWU, holds will be a grave indictment on you and your administration should you demit office without addressing the just entitlements of these workers who are conveniently described as being “ESSENTIAL”, but not treated as being essential.

2) Your suggested dates pose another problem. The upcoming elections and the inherent uncertainties obviously present some concerns. More importantly, the NHWU is concerned about strength of commitments made when they are not fulfilled within the fiscal year in which they are made. Will the new administration (regardless of party) be bound to adhere to them in the formulation of its budgetary allocations? Budgets have to be approved by Parliament; will  the new parliamentarians be bound by your commitments? Our concerns are heightened when you are cited in the Daily Express dated 2015/08/07 thus: ‘Howai said in some cases, an appropriation for the funding would have to be made “after parliament is reconvened” (after the general election).’

Our members are very concerned that because there is no recognized majority union in the RHAs and consequently no collective agreement that can legally bind the government to fulfilling that which it has promised, and because of government’s track record of not fulfilling its promises to the labour movement, this latest “promise” is being used to lull them into a mood of complacency. Rest assured that this will not happen and our members are quite prepared to do all that is necessary to defend and advance their quest for equity and justice and against discrimination.

3) The NHWU has seen documents provided by very reliable sources which indicate that at least some senior management personnel have received retroactive pay and salary increases. This we find to be crass and a slap in the face of the overworked and underpaid non-managerial monthly-paid staff that management will gorge themselves full and leave their charges in the wilderness. This is particularly galling seeing negotiations for public officers were concluded in March. There is absolutely no excuse for not being able to pay the workers in a timely fashion.

4) The NHWU wonders if you are aware of the plight of retirees of the RHA’s. Do you know that some of them who would have worked there from their inception and have now retired are in receipt of pensions ranging between $800.00-1000.00 per month? Some will get some temporary relief from these payments; do you think it is fair that they should line up and wait
behind the senior managers for payment?

5) The NHWU has been advised by key personnel in the Finance and Payroll departments that both the implementation of the new rates and the computation of back pay can be processed by August 31st. We have been advised that all that is required is the instruction and release of monies.

You would no doubt be aware that these workers who have been extremely patient over the last five (5) years have now become quite restive. The NHWU is very concerned that their frustrations will overflow into areas that will benefit no one. We urge that you and your Cabinet colleagues urgently review you position and have the increases effected by this month’s end.

The NHWU is willing, able and prepared to assist in an amicable resolution to these issues.

Sylvan Wilson for
General Secretary