BNU President Amancha Williams. (File photo)
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE president of Bahamas Nurses Union is disappointed her members have still not been paid money owed to them.
After saying the government failed to pay overtime and honorary gifts to the nurses for months leading up to the end of last year, BNU chief Amancha Williams gave officials until New Year’s Eve to pay up. The nurses have still not been paid, she said.
“We spoke to the Minister of Health (Renward Wells) and he said that we will be paid by January which includes the overtime and everything else,” she said.
“I asked him if he could give us a date in January. He didn’t give me a date. I asked for those words to be sent to us in writing. He has yet to send anything to us in writing and he has yet to respond to the date.
“This is the worst we have seen in any government — the way how they operate. We don’t want to see another government like this, ever. This is the worst the Bahamian people have seen it. People are begging and running down this government for something they have worked for.”
Asked if there will be industrial action from union members if the outstanding sums are not paid by their payday at the end of January, Nurse Williams said she does not discuss industrial action.
Instead she said: “If the overtime and honorary gifts are not paid out to our members by January, then we cannot promise anything. They had us to work and they did not tell us that they did not have any money. They waited until we finished working to tell us that you are not going to pay us because you have no money. You knew what was going to happen, but at the end of the day you mistreated us, the worker. An honest day’s work is an honest day’s pay.
“We have families just like how every politician has families. They have not stopped the politicians’ monies, or their allowances, but they chose to stop the nurses’ overtime; they didn’t pay them. They stopped the honorary gift; they didn’t give it. They disappointed us. This is not right and it is not fair.”
Nurse Williams, very frustrated on behalf of her union members, mentioned the plight of members at the Department of Public Health.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. Especially for the Department of Public Health. They have been robbed, literally. Promotions are outstanding with files sitting on someone’s desk for almost six years. Increments are also sitting on someone’s desk,” she said. “People who were hired at the Department of Public Health in 2018 are still waiting to be confirmed. This is now 2020 and they have yet to see a confirmation letter.”
She pointed out the fact that The Bahamas might see a third wave of COVID-19 and said that many healthcare workers feared the possibility of it. She said the same healthcare workers who are owed money will have to be the same ones working on the frontline if there is a third wave.
She concluded: “This country was never run like this before with one person getting all the bread. We shared bread. This is the worst we have ever seen it. The nurses are not being unreasonable. They have waited over nine months to be paid overtime. This is an unfair and unjust government.”
Last month, Health Minister Renward Wells insisted that the government will honour its commitment to provide honorariums to healthcare workers who offered their services during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Wells explained that the government had only agreed to provide a $5,000 honorarium and $100,000 life insurance policy to those frontline workers who from the onset of COVID offered to provide care to infected patients.
However, he would not say when the money will be paid, suggesting this hinged on the country’s finances. At the time, he also said nurses had been paid overtime, but it was the doctors who were owed this payment.