Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett said yesterday that she will direct union members to end their strike after Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes announced that the matter is being referred to the Industrial Tribunal.
The Industrial Relations Act mandates that any person participating in a strike action must “discontinue” that action once the matter is referred to the Industrial Tribunal.
Foulkes said that the strike action by the BDU “has affected and threatened the public interest”.
“I have, therefore, referred the dispute, which has given rise to the strike action, to the Industrial Tribunal,” he said in a statement.
“In accordance with the said Act, all parties to the dispute have been notified in writing.”
Section 76 of the Industrial Relations Act allows the minister of labor to refer a strike action or lock-out, that he/she considers to have affected or threatened the public interest, to the Industrial Tribunal for settlement.
The section adds that, “…it shall be the duty of any person participating in the strike or lock-out to discontinue the same forthwith”.
When asked about the government’s move, Bassett said her union will follow the laws of the land.
She said she would inform her members that the strike is over.
“We will follow the laws of the land, and we have always said that,” she said.
“Whereas other people may not see that as being important and essential for persons coming up and our youth, we will follow the law, and if the law says that we have to end the strike, we will have to.”
Bassett maintained that the government’s decision was not the best one.
She said that the union did all it could to protect the public interest during its strike.
“We left our emergency crew teams in there,” said Bassett.
“What union does that with a strike certificate? We left people there to respond to emergencies. We left the [neonatal intensive care unit] NICU and the [pediatric intensive care unit] PICU; we left them fully functioning. We left the labor ward fully functioning because we did not want to compromise health.
“We took steps to make sure that there was no issue. Now, non-essential services certainly were affected, and our consultant body physicians, they stepped in and they assisted.”
Last Wednesday, roughly 420 doctors on New Providence and Grand Bahama withdrew their services.
The withdrawal of services came more than eight months after the doctors voted to strike. The key issue is holiday pay, with the union claiming that the doctors are not being paid for working on holidays.
A meeting between the BDU and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) was canceled yesterday after the union said they were advised not to sign off on a proposal from Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Director of Labour John Pinder said.
According to Pinder, Minnis proposed to pay the doctors $4.9 million in owed holiday back pay.
But Pinder said that Bassett told him that she was advised that signing the document would not be in the doctors’ best interest.