What Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has to say during a meeting with Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams today will determine what action the union takes next, the labor leader said yesterday.
Williams, who was yesterday outraged after the Department of Labour nullified the last strike vote taken by the union, said her members are “tired of the disrespect” and are prepared to “take it to the streets”.
Minnis is hoping to assuage the long-standing concerns of the union, which are mostly related to pay and a shift system the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) yesterday announced is ending.
The Ministry of Labour yesterday declared the last strike vote taken by BNU null and void.
In a statement, the ministry said that both the Department of Labour and the BNU agreed that no ballots were delivered to three islands: Inagua, Mayaguana and San Salvador.
But the move did not sit well with Williams, who said she had not received any notice that the vote was now “null and void”.
The BNU held a strike vote on June 7 during which time 377 nurses voted to strike while seven opposed.
Shortly after, Williams said the Department of Labour failed to honor the vote, saying nurses in some islands did not get an opportunity to vote.
“What we are hoping to achieve tomorrow with the prime minister is to come to a solution and to have that in black and white,” she told The Guardian.
She added, “I can tell you one thing, the prime minister and his team [are] not making any sense to us. That is our final, last [straw].
“If we leave the prime minister’s office and things aren’t clear, I can tell the world, The Bahamas, that this union will take it to the streets.
“So, they want a showdown from the nurses? The nurses are waiting because the nurses are not pleased of their performance and the way the government has handled these issues.
“So, tell them to standby, because we will blow it up. I don’t mean literally blow it up, but we will show them what we are good for. We are tired of the disrespect that has been given to us. We are tired of it, this nonsense. It is nonsense.”
More than 200 nurses called in sick in April over those labor concerns.
The Ministry of Health, in a statement last month, claimed that all outstanding payments to members of the BNU have been addressed.
The outstanding payments owed to staff in Grand Bahama resulting from a fire at Rand Memorial Hospital will be made this month, along with a payment for the increase in uniform allowance of $50 per month, the statement said.
The ministry noted that other issues still outstanding require due diligence and verification before payments can be made.
The ministry also proposed the implementation of a new shift system for nurses working on night duty.
But the union insisted that major issues have not yet been resolved, including outstanding payments to nurses for post graduate qualifications.
Williams warned that either the government pay them all the money owed or face a strike.
In a memorandum yesterday, the PHA advised that it will begin its new comprehensive standardized shift system, five on, two off, effective September 3.
“Under this standardized shift system, nurses will be required to work eight hour shifts, including those nurses previously assigned to the night shift,” the letter said.
“This change will in effect eliminate the current four on, four off system, resulting in increased availability of nurses in our nursing pool, while reducing working hours per day for nurses currently working the night shifts.
“It is anticipated that the reduction of work hours from 10 hours per day to eight hours per day for our night nurses would reduce exposure of these nurses to errors and accidents, both to themselves as well as their patients.”
Williams has said that the union does not support the new shift system.
“This is totally out of order,” she said in an August 1 press conference.
“No regard for industrial goodwill.
“The proposed shifts were never discussed with the union.
“No agreements were ever made with the parties. Therefore, the PHA is moving ahead making a unilateral decision.”
The Ministry of Health has noted that The Bahamas is in need of over 600 nurses.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English