MANAGEMENT officials at the National Insurance Board dismissed claims that a sickout took place last week due to industrial arrest following recent managerial hirings in NIB’s prescription drug plan.
Public Relations Minister Pandora Butler, in response to The Tribune’s January 18 article “NIB post for Gibson’s cousin” when it is alleged that the three managerial positions were not advertised concerning the Prescription Drug Plan, said that the union representatives, if there were any grievances with the recent hirings, did not come forth.
“No concerns or grievances have been expressed to Management by either the Public Managers Union (PMU) or the Union of Public Officers (UPO), the two bargaining agents for the staff of NIB,” Ms Butler said in a statement.
She said that the sick-out alleged by The Tribune article could not be confirmed as staff do fall ill from time to time and, under the industrial agreements, they are afforded up to two days off from work before having to present a sick slip.
“No one in the referenced department has today exceeded two sick days off without the supporting medical certificate.”
Ms Butler, despite claims from staff that the industrial agreement was breached, maintained that this was not the case concerning the recent hirings.
“The new hires for the National Prescription Drug Plan were brought on as temporary workers, which is not at all unusual. NIB sometimes determines, because of the nature of our operations, that assistance is needed for the performance of temporary jobs.”
“In such cases, persons are engaged, but they occupy no position in either the PMU or UPO bargaining unit. That means they hold no specific positions and carry no job title.”
The hirings, one of them reported to be the first cousin of NIB Minister Shane Gibson, sparked outrage because they were undertaken in contravention of NIB’s industrial agreement, inside sources said.
Around eight staff members in the Prescription Drug department were said to have called in sick in protest. It is reported that these positions were not advertised, and many within the organisation felt that they had the skills to fill them. They resented outsiders being brought in as managers over them.
The two new NIB managers – other than Mr Gibson’s relative – are said to be a former store clerk and a manager of a nightclub.
They are now the Drug Plan’s executive officer and senior clerical supervisor, the sources said.
Employees said that the current manager of the Drug Plan had no prior knowledge of any new employees, finding out only on the day the three reported for work.
The situation is said to have come as a “slap in the face” to long-serving employees, who feel they have been trumped by individuals without relevant qualifications or experience.
NIB staff said they have been told that before they can apply for any senior position, they would have to obtain a bachelor’s degree. But, they say, at least one of the new managers does not even have a college education.
When asked if he authorised the employment of his relative at NIB, Minister Gibson denied any knowledge of new managerial appointments. He then asked: “So what does that mean? You are asking me a question, I want to know what you mean. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Ms Butler yesterday also commented on the allegations of nepotism, expressing surprise at the apparent criticism of the appointment.
“Our job application forms ask applicants to declare any relationship they may have to employees of the National Insurance Board. Relationship in this case, implies an immediate family member – mother, father, sister, brother, etc.”
“If one of the persons is a cousin of our Minister, we would not have to know that, primarily because he is not an employee of NIB,” the public relations manager said.
She concluded that despite reports, morale at NIB was not at a low and is “on a sharp incline.”