The Public Hospitals Authority last night claimed the Bahamas Doctors Union strike was now illegal following further demands by officials.
In a statement, the PHA said: “The PHA and the BDU entered into discussions around the settlement of holiday pay approximately eight months ago. Both parties negotiated in good faith during that period.”
The statement said that the major sticking points between the parties were the means of verifying each junior doctor working during holidays, identifying the number of hours each junior doctor worked on holidays and the number of instalments over which the compensation would be paid.
“As there were no means of identifying each junior doctor or the specific number of hours worked each holiday due to junior doctors not utilising the labour management (swipe) system, the PHA recommended, and the BDU agreed to accept a payout that applied an across-the-board settlement to all junior doctors employed by the PHA,” said the statement. “Under this arrangement, holiday pay compensation would be based on length of service during the period under review, rather than actual hours worked on holidays by each junior doctor.”
The statement said that the BDU ultimately agreed that the PHA’s assessment of hours was correct and the PHA calculated the cost of 108 junior doctors at double time to be $5.97m - with the PHA calculating that would result in a net payable sum of $4.98m.
“This explanation was provided to the BDU and was accepted by them by way of a letter dated May 14th, 2019. The PHA finds it totally disingenuous of the BDU to give the Bahamian public the perception that the Minister of Health is now attempting to ‘insist’ that they sign an agreement that deducts an amount that is due them,” said the statement.
“After both parties agreed that the amount due to the junior doctors was in fact $4.98m, the PHA proposed that the amounts be paid over six semi-annual instalments. The BDU countered with a request for a repayment period of four semi-annual instalments. The PHA advised the BDU that its financial position would not allow for the repayment to be shortened to four instalments but in the spirit of compromise, agreed to meet the BDU halfway by proposing a repayment over five instalments. This offer was extended to the BDU in June of 2019 but to date, the BDU has refused to accept the compromise and instead made the decision to strike on August 21st, 2019.”
The PHA said that even after meeting with the Prime Minister, where it was agreed that the entire $4.98m owed would be paid over two instalments in September and December of 2019, an even better offer than what the BDU originally requested, the BDU saw fit not to accept the offer and end their strike but instead made further demands - “demands that have no bearing to its strike certificate and as a result, in the opinion of the PHA, turned a legal strike into an illegal one”.
“The BDU has asked that their holiday pay be settled. The government has agreed to this. It is time for them to return to the hospitals and the clinics and render much needed service to the Bahamian people,” concluded the statement.