By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
DESPITE filing a formal trade dispute with the Department of Labour, the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) intends to proceed with holding a strike vote.
“We are still going to go ahead and do what we have to do,” BNU President Amancha Williams told The Tribune Friday – the day after Labour Director Robert Farquharson said he was hopeful all grievances on the table could be amicably resolved. The formal dispute was filed on Wednesday.
She said this was the decision of the union because it had no faith in the process.
Although Ms Williams could still give no clear indication of when the strike vote would happen, she was passionate in maintaining the nurses needed to be compensated for the poor conditions they face regularly.
“We’ve been there before. We have matters before the tribunal; nothing is happening from 2016 (and) this is when I came into the position as president of the Bahamas Nurses Union. These matters were outstanding from 2009 and this is 2018," she said.
“You have major clinics in Abaco and in Exuma (that) don’t even have cleaning. The nurses are cleaning. This is what we are fighting for. No one talks about when we have to leave our two-year-old babies home with our husbands and go to the Family Island to relieve our colleagues because they haven’t had a vacation in over a year. They are the only nurses on the island. There is no doctor. They are keeping the people alive.
“We are all up in the bushes looking for patients for the prevention of tuberculosis. This is what the nurses (are) doing; that’s going beyond. One of my nurses on my executive team is now relieving a nurse and she has a sick child and I said, you leaving your sick child? She said, 'There is no nurse on the island with a population of 200 people. There is no doctor, so I have to go.' This is what she is doing for her country. That’s a sacrifice.”
Ms Williams added: “We’ve had several meetings that the Director brought us to to reconcile and the nurses always sat in good faith in hoping these issues be resolved. And apparently none of them are resolved. Like I said before, almost six weeks ago we were with the Department of Labour in reference to not paying nurses the mileage provided that they are using their private vehicles. We gave the government 30 days and they said they were going to resolve the issue in good faith; we sat there. It’s now almost two months going to three months.”
The union threatened industrial action over a dispute with the Public Hospitals Authority concerning expatriate nurses on contract being asked to work 12-hour shifts.
Ms Williams previously said while that matter specifically impacts expatriate nurses, it still concerns those covered by the union. Unionised nurses reportedly work four days and are off for four days.