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posted 14 Dec 2015, 11:28 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Dec 2015, 12:02 ]



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

The National Health Workers Union (NHWU) roundly condemns the Minister of Finance and the government over their decision to defer, indefinitely, outstanding payments due to monthly-paid health care workers who are directly employed by the Regional Health Authorities. The Minister of Finance claims that this is due to the fact that Government had reached its borrowing limits and will evaluate “early” in 2016 its best option to finance the huge outstanding debt left behind by the former administration.

The NHWU is particularly disgusted by this development as it comes against the backdrop of three unanswered letters we wrote to this government since it attained office on the outstanding debt owed to these workers. The union wrote to Minister Imbert on 2015.09.18 mere days after he was sworn in and later on 2015.10.25, informing him of the debt and making out the case for those monies to be paid immediately and critically in our second letter we warned him against his open bias against the debt owed to workers.

Our third letter was sent to Prime Minister Rowley 2015/11/13 when we received no reply from the Minister of Finance. To date we have not received even an acknowledgement from the office of the Prime Minister.

His public statements now confirm that the Minister of Finance has done what most people do when bills are to be paid and one is cash strapped; he has prioritised which debt he will honour and deferred the rest. Sadly, workers’ debt has fallen by the wayside. Even in the Parliament debate to raise the ceiling on Government’s debt Minister Imbert’s focus was more so on Government’s debt to contractors as opposed to workers.

He is cited in the daily newspapers of Saturday 12th December 2015 as saying that government’s expenditure for the combined months of September and October was $13 billion (under his watch) as opposed to the normal $3 to $4 billion paid out monthly. This confirms that the Ministry of Finance has in fact honoured many of the “frenzied” debts racked up by the last administration.

It is therefore crystal clear that the Minister of Finance and the current administration are making the same fatal error in judgement made by all previous administrations that workers are only important at election time and can be taken for granted until the next election. The debt owed to RHA employees are for services provided since 2011. It would be very interesting to find out the dates of the debts honoured to date and even more important the names of those favoured to receive payments from this supposedly empty treasury.

What is also clear is that health care workers’ debt is put at the bottom of the pile because there is no recognised majority union in the regional health authorities. While health care is considered an essential service and health care workers are legally debarred from taking industrial action, when it comes to dealing with the workers as twenty first century industrial relations demands, government and management treat workers with scorn and derision. The relationship between the employer and the workers is actually a master-servant relationship.

Heath care workers have followed procedure and made super-human efforts to access their entitlements, to enjoy the fruits of labour they have already expended and are no longer prepared to tolerate the naked exploitation and oppression of the employer.

Failure to satisfy the legitimate desire to be paid the debt owed to them could very well lead to a situation where health care workers exchange their workplace uniforms for battle armour. The frustration levels have become unbearable and if this issue is not settled to the workers’ satisfaction, rest assured that there will certainly be hell to pay. This is not a threat this is a warning!



Sylvan Wilson, Executive Officer National Workers Union 758 8933