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posted 4 Feb 2016, 04:38 by Gerry Kangalee






Dave Smith, the General Secretary of the National Health Workers Union, issued the following statement.

The National Health Workers’ Union (NHWU) has accessed a memo sent to Divisional heads of departments who are being advised by the CEO’s of the respective Regional Health Authorities to implement sweeping cuts in health care throughout the country.

The impetus for this latest move comes from the Ministry of Health “to review overall expenditure and implement a 7% cost cutting measure (inclusive of Salaries and Goods & services).”  The mandate originated from the office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. This is the same Government that is on public record as committing itself to pay retroactive salaries owed to these very workers since 2011 and to do so early this year. What is the truth? Are they cutting salaries or are they clearing their debt?

The memo goes on to list the following measures that can be implemented:

“A comprehensive assessment of the institution’s Establishment, to determine if spare capacity exists.

Whether all temporary officers are against a vacant post?

Are we getting value for money?

How are we measuring performance?

How do we manage overall overtime?

 Are we maximizing on the use of our consumables such as stationery, hardware, medical supplies, linens, laboratory supplies, radiology supplies etc.?” 

The areas to be cut are to be supplied to the General Managers, Finance by Friday 5th February 2016.

All of this is taking place against a worldwide health alert on the Zika virus and the constant public relations posturing and distractions from the real issues in health care by the current Minister of Health. It is quite clear that that his constant media rants are smokescreens to divert attention away from the impending horrors to be inflicted upon health care workers and the working people and the poor who make use of our public health institutions.

The instruction to “review” expenditure on salaries, goods and services represents a clear and present assault on ALL workers employed by the RHA’s and to the public at large.

The threat to the salaries of monthly-paid health workers is ominous as none of the monthly rated staff except the doctors employed by the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) have Recognised Majority Union status and consequently none of their salaries is protected by a collective agreement. This exposes all of them to the unilateral abuses of management: the classical “Master and Servant” relationship.

The attack on goods and services will result in further hardships on the population as we can expect even longer waiting times for doctors’ attention, even more grievous shortages of medicine, unconscionable delays in accessing medical tests, dialysis etc. It is well known that there are serious deficits in terms of equipment, staff, medication, utensils and everyday products, maintenance of tools and equipment etc.

The assessment of the Institutions’ establishments to determine if “spare capacity exists” is double speak for retrenchment of staff. This, when in the North Central Regional Health Authority there are, at least, six hundred and fifty vacancies to be filled, and in the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) there are three thousand four hundred and thirteen (3413) vacancies, including nine hundred and ninety-two (992) nursing vacancies. Other staff shortages include laboratory technicians, phlebotomists, radiographers, pharmacists, dietetic and nutrition personnel, health safety and environment personnel, medical social workers and many other specialisations.

All the monthly paid workers previously identified are on individual contracts which contain termination provisions.

Hundreds of so-called “Temporary Officers” have been on the job for years, some for over fifteen years. Over eighty temporary and contract staff attached to SWRHA had already received offers of permanent employment, some already had pension deductions made and now this brutal and heartless onslaught is being hatched 

The mindless chopping and slashing are predictable as the heads have been given just two weeks to present their plan. All the questions about value for money, measuring performance etc. are all rhetorical. Those are the normal duties of management. If the CEO’s are of the view that the heads had not been doing their jobs then the CEO’s and all of them should be fired immediately.

This action by the Government to slash health care costs as part of its austerity measures is typical World Bank/IMF conditionalities which have been implemented in many European and South American countries. It was also done in T&T in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It has always been met with stiff resistance by the poor and working class. This struggle has no race or party lines; it is about the survival of all who are dependent on the public health care system. The struggle of health workers is the struggle of those who utilise the public health system 

The NHWU condemns the vicious attack being orchestrated in the health sector that will have devastating effects on the population, particularly the poor and working class and the workers employed in the sector. 

The NHWU calls on health workers to prepare for a long and bitter struggle. This battle cannot and will not be won unless ALL health workers come forward and make sure their voices are heard. 


Dave Smith, General Secretary National Health Workers Union 683 5305