The Public Hospital Authority signed two five-year agreements with the Bahamas Nurses Union yesterday.
Photo: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Nurses Union yesterday signed off on two five-year, $13m industrial agreements with the government, effectively concluding years of agitation from the union over concerns related to payment issues and liability insurance.
At a press conference at the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) yesterday morning, Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez, Labour Minister Shane Gibson, Bahamas Nurses Union President Jannah Khalfani and PHA managing director Herbert Brown all signed off on two agreements that will allow union members to receive compensation packages that are “more comparable with those of other professions”.
The agreements will also seek to provide nurses with outstanding benefits, lump sum payments, as well as an increase of uniform and other allowances, officials said.
According to Dr Gomez, the first agreement covers the period 2010-2015, while the other covers the period 2015-2020. Both agreements, Dr Gomez said, will cost the government and taxpayers $13.8m.
He said the signing of both agreements will impact 1,550 nurses employed at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and the Grand Bahama Health Service.
“This is a clear indication of government’s commitment to the ongoing partnership with the labour movement and the development of our country, the public healthcare system in particular,” Dr Gomez said. “I trust that the nurses will consider these contracts as an indication of the value this government places on their service and skills.”
Last month, Ms Khalfani reportedly called on Mr Gibson to intervene after she claimed the government and the union agreed to all substantive matters on a new industrial agreement, only to have the government’s negotiator challenge key items.
Yesterday, however, Ms Khalfani expressed her elation at finally having reached the ratification phase of the process.
“It’s a very historical time for us, I think this will be the first in history that two agreements will be signed at the same time, so I don’t want to delay it,” she said. “I’m excited.”
Mr Gibson, the minister with responsibility for union negotiations, said he was pleased to have finally concluded both industrial agreements with the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU), the last one having been signed in 2005 under the previous Christie administration.
“This means there will be no need for us to negotiate for another several years,” he said. “This is forward thinking. Furthermore, the overall compensation packages which have been agreed upon will be more comparable with those of other professions.
“…Suffice it to say, even though they were not completely satisfied with what we were able to negotiate, they understood and appreciated the economic environment that we’re now in. So we extend our heartfelt thanks to the union for being so understanding.”