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Court order after doctors defiant

Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder yesterday ordered that the Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) instruct its members to return to work, effectively ending the union’s strike action, according to information obtained from the Office of the Attorney General.

Winder granted an injunction against the BDU around 5:45 p.m.

It was ordered that the union, listed as the respondents in the matter, be restrained from contravening sections 76, 77 and 83 of the Industrial Relations Act. It was also ordered that the union instruct its members to return to their specific areas of employment and report to work when scheduled to do so.

The matter will be argued before Winder tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.

Hours earlier, members of the BDU marched to Rawson Square, sang in the rain and refused to return to work until the Supreme Court order was given.

“This is one part of the battle,” BDU President Dr. Melisande Bassett said during a press conference at the BCPOU hall on Farrington Road.

“The war is not finished until you treat us fairly and you treat us decently, like we are Bahamians.”

The union started its strike action last week amid concerns over pay they say is owed to them for holidays worked over the past decade.

The union said the doctors are collectively owed $10 million. The government offered to pay $4.9 million to the doctors. However, a meeting on Monday morning to discuss and finalize that agreement fell through when Bassett said she was advised by the union’s legal counsel not to sign.

On Monday, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes referred the union’s strike action to the Industrial Tribunal as it had “threatened the public interest”. The move was expected to lead to the end of the strike and see the doctors return to work.

“We have been denied the legal right to exercise our right to industrial action because we have not been able to have conversations,” Bassett said.

“Now, of course, we have been seeking advice from all across as to what is our next step. Today, we want to let you know that this may be a small battle that seemingly they have won, but the war is still being waged and we will not stop.”

Bassett said the union will hold strike votes over four other trade disputes that are filed with the Department of Labour. She said the union also intends to file another trade dispute over the removal of interns’ housing and housing allowances.

“One thing that the minister has failed to realize is that we have four other matters that they did not attend at the Industrial Tribunal,” Bassett said.

“Trade disputes have already been filed and we will call for a strike vote on all of them.”

She added, “We will file for a strike action on those matters. You don’t want to talk to us at the table? We will use the legal means that are afforded to us.”

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that he does not see the need for anger in the negotiations.

“I want to be very clear that, you know, I understand and empathize with any group of professionals who seek to improve conditions, but bear in mind that the tension that exists does not have to be angry [or] acrimonious,” he said.

“It ought to be a respectful level of tension.”

He added, “We look forward to a return to normalcy.

“The concern about the public’s welfare is paramount, and obviously, the Bahamian people have a right to be able to get safe, reliable healthcare services provided by the senior physicians, the junior doctors, the nurses and all of the ancillary and supporting healthcare teams.”

Sands said he does not believe the end of this strike will be the end of the “drama”, citing issues with other unions.

“Obviously, we are not of the view that this is the end of the drama, the end of the problems,” he said.

“And we will have to deal with issues being raised by the nurses as well as the BPSU, and we are prepared to meet with them to deal with them in a respectful, collegial manner.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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