Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FRIDAY meeting with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has given the Bahamas Nurses Union “high expectation” their concerns will be resolved in their favour, union president Amancha Williams said Friday.
According to her, Dr Minnis said he will take two weeks to consider their concerns and will then meet them to discuss his solutions.
When contacted, a spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister said no statement about the meeting would be forthcoming.
“We have high expectations and it will be sad if he doesn’t come through,” Ms Williams said. “The minister of health didn’t carry through. It would be sad to know the prime minister, who is the man in charge, didn’t carry through."
The nurses were left with the impression that Dr Minnis sided with them on perhaps their most contentious point of dispute with the Public Hospitals Authority: a move to implement a change in nurses' shift from four-on/four-off to five-on/two-off. The PHA says the change would increase the number of nurses on duty, reduce the number of hours nurses could work in a day and reduce prospects for accidents and errors. Some government officials also privately acknowledge the move would cut down overtime pay for nurses. The BNU claims the shift will cause burnout.
“We got positive feedback (from the prime minister) on that issue,” Ms Williams said. “He realized the industrial agreement states it must be agreed to, it can’t be no one person, no unilateral decision to change the shift and the prime minister acknowledged that. It has to be made when the two parties sit down and agree on the matter.”
In addition to the shift change, which goes into effect September 3rd, nurses have complained about a number of overdue payments they have not received.
“The prime minister was knowledgeable about what was going on and what’s the concern of nurses in the Bahamas,” Ms Williams said. “We made him aware of all the things we’re not pleased with. We will sit back and wait and will see how the cards will be played. Many times we have been disappointed. This is our last straw.”
The nurses took a strike vote on June 7th but the Department of Labour declared that poll null and void, saying ballots were not delivered to Inagua, Mayaguana and San Salvador. Scoffing at this, the BNU has noted those three islands have two nurses each whereas 377 nurses around the country voted in favour of a strike on June 7th.
Ms Williams said the union won’t consider holding another strike vote until Dr Minnis has reported back to them.
Although labour officials insist a letter was sent to the union informing it of the null and void strike poll, Ms Williams said the union still hasn’t received the letter.
“When we get that official letter, we may just sit down and get the opinion of our lawyer in reference of where we should go,” she said. “People should be sued for these kind of things.”
She said: “The prime minister doesn’t just know us, he worked and he’s been through a strike episode and knows at the end of the day the effects of a strike on a hospital. And what a time it would be to have an industrial action, when people are travelling and it is hot.”