Director of Labour John Pinder yesterday expressed concern about a potential healthcare shutdown as the looming threat of strikes by senior physicians and nurses continues.
“I don’t think no government or no country could afford to have its healthcare providers bringing industrial actions against the employer or the government so that certainly would be a great concern to anybody,” said Pinder, the former president of the Bahamas Public Service Union.
“I would hope that we would be able to get these matters resolved favorably and there will be no reason for industrial actions.”
He continued: “It’s very important for the nurses and doctors to be in the healthcare system.
“They’re very, very important and the sad thing about it [is] they can hold the country hostage, especially The Bahamas, simply because there is more demand for nurses than supply.”
His comments come as neither the nurses nor the senior physicians have ruled out the possibility of industrial action amid negotiations with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).
The PHA announced last week that nurses scheduled to work between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. will be paid $1.75 per hour in addition to their base pay.
The senior physicians voted last month to take industrial action as a result of poor working conditions, a lack of health insurance, and a lack of raises for 10 years.
The Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) has protested a new shift system twice this week because it finds the proposed $1.75 premium insulting.
It also said that the system will not provide sufficient rest periods.
When asked on Monday whether the union was considering industrial action, Williams said: “We will do exactly what was said, what we have to do. We will not work that shift change.”
In a recent interview, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said he would not minimalize any complaints being made because “you do not know how this can crescendo or escalate”.
“Let’s see how this thing will play out,” Sands said.
“We have the benefit of prominent union leadership assisting in this process and so the director of labor is involved, the Ministry of Labour is involved, and their role is to make sure this thing follows the hard-fought labor practices that Bahamians were bloodied for.”
Pinder told The Nassau Guardian that he reached out to the BNU yesterday to meet but was told it would not be available for a meeting until Friday.
On Thursday, Pinder said he hopes to bring resolution to the situation.
“I believe the nurses’ president is open for dialogue,” he said.
“I believe it is important for them to feel that they are being acknowledged and being respected, and at the end of the day it has to be a decision that both parties can live with.
“I believe I can probably give some advice in that regard.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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