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posted 12 Jun 2015, 12:07 by Gerry Kangalee

The following article was extracted from the newsletter SWRHA TODAY volume 1 No. 2, published by the National Health Workers Union (NHWU).

SWRHA (South West Regional Health Authority) is for all intents and purposes a den of inequity.  SWRHA is the nomenclature for the South West Regional Health Authority which is a state-financed health care provider with approximately 4,100 monthly paid employees and 3,400 vacancies throughout its thirty-one health centres, three health facilities, two Extended Care Centres (ECCs) and two hospitals. There are also daily paid employees.

So the first statement that SWRHA is a den of inequity is not entirely correct. A much more precise statement is that there are members of top Management in SWRHA who are inextricably involved in the course of their duties and operations in nefarious activities.

They utilise their control over the San Fernando General Hospital to live high on the hog and to operate this critical public institution financed by public funds (our money) for private purposes. Some of them would have never found themselves in these plum positions were it not for their political connections and the colour of their tongues.

In their estimation, the health care system is just another means of accumulating capital for themselves, their families and their political sponsors and benefactors. We all know this, but as workers, we are placed under tremendous pressure to turn a blind eye and conform to a vicious and venal system because of the economics of survival.

We believe we are powerless because of the incredibly exploitative industrial relations system that prevails in SWRHA, particularly the use of short term contracts, the appraisal system as a weapon of victimisation and the culture of favouritism and discrimination that has developed over the years.

What this atmosphere does is to put worker against worker, all in a mad scramble to please the bosses so that favours may be bestowed on us as we struggle to keep our heads above water and sacrifice our dignity and integrity in the process.

We have a situation where instead of uniting across occupations to advance our interests as health care workers, we emphasise status differences, bad talk each other and exist in a state of low level conflict between groups of workers. So we have friction between doctors and nurses; RNs and ENAs; ENA’s and wardsmaids and on and on.

Of course, the management is orchestrating all this divide and rule nonsense and we are falling for it. The essence of the problem is that monthly paid workers in SWRHA do not have a negotiated collective agreement which would spell out in detail how the relationship between workers and management is regulated.

This collective agreement is registered at the Industrial Court, once it is negotiated and it becomes a legal document.

The only way SWRHA workers can enjoy the protection and benefit of a collective agreement is if they are members of a recognised majority union with which management is compelled through the force of the law to negotiate and meet and treat.

To become a recognised majority union the National Health Workers Union must apply to the Recognition Board for certification and this can only happen if more than fifty percent of members of the bargaining units in SWRHA become members of the union.

To speed up the process to the point where we can make an application to the Recognition Board, those who are already in the union must encourage those who have not yet joined that it is in everybody’s interest that they do so that we can put some order into the chaos and confusion that prevails in SWRHA.

We can transform this den of inequity from a den of iniquity into the best health care system in the Caribbean.