Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
NEGOTIATIONS between the Bahamas Nurses Union and Public Hospitals Authority have reached an impasse, BNU President Amancha Williams said Friday, while indicating there could be industrial action at any time if there is no consensus on lingering concerns.
The BNU president said not only is PMH running at a deficit due to a shortage of nurses, but nurses continue to be incensed by PHA’s unwillingness to, in a timely fashion, resolve the overtime pay owed.
Both parties have also failed to see eye to eye on the shift change rate.
Ms Williams said PHA is still offering an unsatisfactory rate of $1.75, but the union wants at least $3.00.
She spoke to reporters Friday at the National Training Agency the National Tripartite Council’s second annual general assembly.
“At this point we are at an impasse,” Ms Williams said when she was asked for an update on negotiations. “We’re now at a state where we’re trying to retain and recruit our nurses and we have a shortage which is causing the hospital, specifically Princess Margaret Hospital, to run at a deficit.
“We have had issues such as overtime not being or said to be not going to be paid, which causes an imbalance in the healthcare system.
“We realise that we want to keep our Bahamian nurses in the Bahamas, not to go to Canada, or to the US, so we have a challenge and so this challenge is to be said because there is no money.”
She continued: “The question is to our government if you’re going to bring in foreign nurses, if you’re going to recruit workers, where are you going to find the money if you can’t pay overtime?
“We are asking the government if the nurses in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas are facilitating your shortage by giving their day off to ensure that the hospital is providing quality care, then at the end of the day pay the nurses. Overtime is to be paid in a timely fashion.”
“The government still wants to pay $1.75 for a shift change. We can’t agree to that. You have to be competitive. When you come to a bargaining table you can’t stay at $1.75. We must see that you have some interest in the worker and move to at least $3.00. But when you’re staying to $1.75 and a dollar it don’t make no sense to come to the bargaining table. We’re not going to accept that,” she further explained as a key reason for the deadlock. Asked if industrial action would be taken at any point this year as was the case last October, which saw nurses take part in lunch break walkouts.
The action slowed service at PMH and public health facilities throughout the country.
“Like I said we have a strike certificate and we will move forward when they take an action we will move forward. We have a strike certificate in hand we received it December 2018 and we will move forward.
“And we also want the public to join with us. This is our country
“When we have Accident and Emergency not functioning the way it’s supposed to be functioning, when we have children’s ward, when we have no bed space, we want the public to look at the whole of the hospital running.
“This year we’ve had tuberculosis. We’ve had measles. We’ve had a whole (lot) of diseases here in the Bahamas. Come on Bahamas, if there is no nurse who is going to manage these disease processes? The first person in line is the nurse. Could you imagine your schools breaking out in scabies? Or you have TB? Then you have no tourist coming to the Bahamas.
“So what we are saying is put the nurse first not second, the nurse is first. Like I said before when the nurse comes first the patient will come first for the nurse.”
She said the union has not set a timeframe when industrial action might be taken.