‘Shift row merits an apology’

Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff


Tribune Staff Reporter


BAHAMAS Nurses Union president Amancha Williams said the Public Hospitals Authority should apologise for attempting to implement a new eight-hour night shift system, which breached the terms outlined in their industrial agreement.

Her comments came days after Lyrone Burrows, the PHA’s deputy managing director, announced the new shift system would not be implemented since it would have serious implications for the current system as agreed in the nurses’ contract.

During the Ministry of Health’s press conference last Friday, Mr Burrows said PHA has not changed or implemented a new shift system. He also said officials did not make an attempt to eliminate the four on/four off shift system that is currently in place.

This came despite reports from the union last week that more than 100 new nurses were put on a shift system that the union has consistently opposed.

Over the course of last week, several nurses called in sick in opposition to the changes.

Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Ms Williams said while the union is grateful to PHA’s board for “rectifying” the issue, the Authority should apologise for the “inconvenience and hardships” it caused members of the union.

“You cannot change or manipulate an industrial agreement, so what they should have done was make an apology to the Bahamas Nurses Union,” she said. “There should have been an apology, but here again you have no respect because you breached the industrial agreement.

“Legally, a lawsuit should have been made against you in the court, but we kindly came to the table and we asked you ‘Could you rectify this issue?’ And we want to say thank you to the PHA board that facilitated this and the labour consultants that saw the breach and said to us they would rectify the issue.”

Ms Williams said BNU received a letter from PHA on Friday, informing the union that officials will continue to carry out the four on/four off shift system since the new system went against their industrial agreement.

While she could not say whether any nurses called in sick over the weekend, she said “everything will go back to normal” starting today, and “all nurses will be working as usual”.

Ms Williams said BNU opposed the new shift system so strongly because it is globally categorised as “one of the worst shifts” that a nurse could work.

“Here again, it causes the nurse to not get enough sleeping hours. Around the world there is a standard that when a nurse leaves her job, she’s supposed to have so many hours of rest. That (shift) does not provide that. So, what you’re doing is you’re going to put a nurse’s life in danger again. That is why it’s not recommended,” she explained.

Ms Williams argued that PHA breached the industrial agreement because subject 52 of the contract states “if either party of this agreement desires to amend the same so as alter the terms and the conditions of an employment or the employee in the union, such parties shall notify others in writing of an intention and forward with notice to propose an amendment in writing”. She said if the Authority wanted to alter the shift system, officials should have met with the union to “discuss and agree” on any possible changes.

“When we saw the breach we didn’t make any noise,” she said. “We just pointed out the errors and that’s how a union and an employer is supposed to work together as a team.

“I’m not demanding an apology, but I think they know they did something that was not right, and they knew they should have apologised for the inconvenience and hardship that they’ve caused the members. They should have known that they breached the contract and went against what was stated in it. (Apologising) would have shown sportsmanship, that alone would have shown goodwill, equity and honesty.”

She added: “Like I said, they didn’t apologise to me, but I will say thank you to the PHA board because they’ve recognised the error and they have assured us that they were going to sit together and fix it”.

The nurses and PHA have been battling the shift issue for more than two years.


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