As the country faces a potential public healthcare shutdown, Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett revealed yesterday that junior physicians intend to take a strike vote.
“We have made [an] application with the Department of Labour, [but] there have been some hiccups with that,” Bassett said.
“We are seeking legal advice as to how we can proceed because we’ve met all the legal requirements to get an approval, [but] that has not been forthcoming.”
Director of Labour John Pinder said neither a trade dispute nor strike vote application has been filed by the BDU.
He said he was not aware of any “dispute going on” between the BDU and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) or Ministry of Health.
But the union maintains that it is taking issue with a lack of overtime pay for physicians who work on holidays.
Bassett said the junior physicians are the “only set of persons within the hospitals, clinics, etc.” who are not paid holiday pay.
“We’re just paid a regular day for working on a holiday,” she said.
She added: “Something as simple as ensuring that junior doctors are paid the legal and constitutional double time for working holidays, we have to battle [the] administration for in the 21st century.”
In September, junior physicians demonstrated in front of Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), claiming that they were being denied key benefits, like holiday pay.
The BDU claimed junior physicians who work on public holidays have consistently not been compensated.
“For us, this is personal,” said the union in September.
“In a field where eating Christmas dinner from a Tupperware container or celebrating special events vicariously through photographs has become the norm, it is unfair and outright criminal to be denied holiday pay.”
Yesterday, Bassett noted that it was significant that the three organizations which fall under the PHA had sought, or were in the process of seeking, approval to take industrial action.
“That in itself speaks volumes,” she said.
The Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA), the Bahamas Nurses Union and the BDU have all taken issue with the PHA recently.
The CPSA withdrew services yesterday, thus leading to a shutdown of most services at PMH.
The nurses have also confirmed that they are in the process of requesting a strike vote from the Department of Labour.
Bassett said the unions were trying to get administrators to understand that “their employees are not indentured servants, that we are partners in healthcare and we can’t be marginalized and ignored”.
Pinder told The Nassau Guardian that doctors who claim they are working overtime without compensation should file a complaint with the Department of Labour.
He stressed that a strike vote should be the “very last” step.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice