Doctors agree to hold off on strike as talks continue

Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett said yesterday that junior doctors will not strike as it continues to negotiate with the Ministry of Health.

“We met today,” Bassett said.

“It was an amicable meeting and we have agreed [to] hold off on strike action until we meet again.”

Junior doctors voted to strike on Monday, claiming there is an unresolved issue over holiday pay.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health said its

executive management had a “productive meeting” with the BDU and had “committed to an early resolution of the outstanding matter of holiday pay”.

“We have agreed to the terms that would preclude the decision to strike,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The ministry looks forward to further discussions with the BDU to enhance career opportunities and progression for doctors in training.”

Bassett said junior doctors have been battling the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) over holiday pay for over seven years.

But the PHA said yesterday their attempts to resolve issues for junior doctors have been “hampered” by the doctors’ non-compliance with an attendance monitoring system.

The PHA said it understands the concerns of the doctors “and [it] is desirous of settling the matter as quickly as possible”.

“However, efforts to effect these payments have been hampered by the lack of compliance by BDU doctors with the automated system for time and attendance monitoring used throughout the authority’s institutions,” the PHA said.

The PHA added that the existing industrial agreement between the PHA and the BDU makes junior doctors eligible for “payment at double time for all hours worked on holidays”.

It said the individual contracts for junior doctors require each doctor to adhere to PHA policies, including the use of the automated system.

“To date, there has been little adherence to this policy by the junior doctors, which makes the task of confirming which employee is eligible for payment for working a holiday near to impossible,” the PHA said.

“Given this non-compliance by the BDU members, the PHA has had to resort to offering an across-the-board holiday pay benefit to all junior doctors.”

The PHA submitted an offer to the BDU In November.

The Guardian understands the PHA proposed to give $2,500 to $2,900 to each junior doctor who would have been engaged by the PHA over the 47 holidays up to October 2018. 

But on Monday, Bassett said the offer was insulting.

“The figures that they would’ve said they were willing to pay would’ve been less than, in a five-year span, what a doctor would’ve been entitled to in a one-year span, so it was grossly under value and quite frankly insulting,” Bassett said.

The PHA said it had established a date to discuss the offer but the junior doctors did not attend the meeting.

“The BDU failed to attend the scheduled meeting, failed to submit a counter-proposal and has failed to meet with the PHA to date,” the PHA said.

“The PHA is amenable to meeting with the BDU in order to bring this matter to a successful conclusion and our door remains open to the union in the interest of our common goal of providing quality, consistent healthcare to our patients.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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