BNU President Amancha Williams. (File photo)
By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT
THE Bahamas Nurses Union said it is giving Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis until December 31 to pay nurses what they are owed for giving service amid the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting the government should be sued over the matter.
BNU President Amancha Williams called the government dishonest as she said not only has it failed to pay nurses a promised COVID-19 stipend, but the promised overtime to nurses at a certain rate has also not been paid.
Nurse Williams said: “My government has promised the essential service (workers) an honorary gift. Pay day is today and we have yet to see the honorary gift. The prime minister has until the 31st of December because he promised me that he was going to pay this honorary gift to the essential service. I have not heard from the prime minister (since) September.
“The government has refused to pay them their double time in overtime. They went to the table (government officials) and the director of labour told them they have to pay them double time or time and a half. The DPH paid them one sack payment and never consulted us. This calls for a lawsuit against the government. This is dishonesty.”
Upset about the stipend promised to essential workers, Nurse Williams is accusing the government of poor management and not living up to its obligations.
She continued: “The prime minister has created a committee that has yet to consult with the union. The committee was supposed to oversee and categorise essential workers as high, medium or low risk and then determine the stipend to be given. We got nothing. No explanation was given and the prime minister would not answer his phone.
“They could have at least sent letters out acknowledging there were recommendations made. Our essential staff have worked and have sacrificed their families. Many of their family members were sick and some of them were sick. We have lost three nurses to COVID. These families have yet to hear anybody consult them on the insurance. The government has yet to speak to these families on their insurances. This looks terrible on the government.”
The union president noted that other countries have paid their essential workers stipends for their heroic efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. She cried shame on the government for not doing its part.
Nurse Williams said: “Everywhere, worldwide, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, doctors, maids, auxiliary nurses, the laundry, the food services, the phlebotomists, were given a little stipend. Countries put this in their budgets. The Heroes Act in the United States of America facilitates that. Up to today, the prime minister in this Commonwealth of the Bahamas borrowed billions of dollars, and we have received nothing.
“To our understanding PAHO and other organisations have donated funds for the nurses and the doctors and essential workers to receive a little funding for all their hard work. Today is the 21st of December and the nurses have yet to receive that. They are the ones who go out and do the surveillance. They are the ones that go on the ground, into the bar rooms and into people’s homes to do contact tracing. The nurses! They were not paid overtime for nine months.”
Nurse Williams said healthcare workers should not be treated like this and if the government could not afford to meet the promise of paying the stipends, then officials should have said so.
She said: “You cannot treat the healthcare workers like that. You cannot treat all the essential workers like this. If you couldn’t afford it, then come to the table and speak to the unions. We understand that this might be an economical problem, but you have not cut the salaries of the government ministers or the members of Parliament and you are still making sidewalks.
“We want to hear from any organisation that has given the government money to facilitate the honorary gift to essential workers. At the end of the day, the government has to understand that they are running a country. I don’t think they realise this.”