Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NURSES overwhelmingly voted to take industrial action during a strike poll held yesterday, Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams said.
As the BNU awaited poll results from a number of Family Islands, she said the unofficial result was 570 “yes” votes and three “no” votes. This means turnout and support for a strike was more robust this time than when a similar poll was taken in June, when 377 nurses voted in favour of a strike.
“That speaks volumes,” Mrs Williams said. “It says whatever it takes to make it work, nurses are willing to move forward so the Bahamas government can hear they are saying no to what they are proposing.”
The government refused to give the BNU a strike certificate after the first strike poll this summer, saying the union did not give every nurse an opportunity to vote.
The move was seen as a thinly veiled attempt at denying the union a strike certificate at all costs, considering fewer than ten nurses were denied the chance to vote, far less than what would have been needed to influence the outcome.
Over the weekend the Public Hospitals Authority, however, pulled back from a shift change policy that has propelled the nurses toward industrial action.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands confirmed Monday that the proposed four on/four off to five on/two off shift change has been indefinitely postponed. It is the second time the PHA has postponed the shift.
Although nurses have other disputes with the PHA, it is only the shift change that would cause them to take industrial action at this time, Ms Williams said.
“The shift change is a ‘no no’ and we will not settle for pickings on the table,” she said. “Give us what is due to us. We are a professional body and we want to be treated as such. PHA hasn’t given a definite answer as to how they are going to move forward (on the shift change) but that’s the one we would move on. If that move in, without the approval of the BNU, ain’t no doubt we moving in.”
Ms Williams said the union will give the government 48 hours to produce a strike certificate, which would give the union the legal right to strike.
She also reacted to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ much-criticised comments about general strike threats.
Earlier yesterday, Dr Minnis joked to reporters that he’s more concerned about whether the Saxons will win Junkanoo than he is about a general strike. A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister released last night said Dr Minnis was sharing a “lighthearted” moment with the media when he made the comment and was not making light of union concerns.
Ms Williams said she didn’t find the remark upsetting but considers it unacceptable.
“I realise the prime minister is underneath pressure, so he diverts his feelings to something that is going to soothe him instead of adding more fire to the flames, but I think he should not have said that,” she said. “In this time, what are you saying? That we are jokers? Ain’t nothing to us? That’s disrespect. That’s unacceptable in a crisis like this.”