Nurses protest

FLASHBACK, 2015: Nurses protest in the lobby of the San Fernando General Hospital following the new rules implemented for public hospitals. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

“It is long overdue. We are happy the travesty will be coming to an end.”

So said president of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA), Idi Stuart, following the budget statement on Monday by Finance Minister Colm Imbert that he had instructed the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to start outstanding public sector wage negotiations.

Imbert also said he had instructed the CPO to investigate the issue of nurses on temporary contracts and its implication for pension arrangements and recommend solutions to ensure the employment contracts of these nurses are regularised.

In a phone interview yesterday, Stuart said: “The association must express its sincere appreciation for the Finance Minister’s statement at yesterday’s (Monday) budget presentation.

“The association has been working assiduously to rectify the anomaly facing nursing and midwifery personnel.

“For too long, they were placed on short-term and temporary employment. It led to heavy external migration of nursing personnel over the last five to six years.

“They flee to Canada, USA and England. Local nurses tend to go to Dubai, Bahamas and Bermuda.

“Nursing personnel battled poverty as they were not able to approach financial institutions to secure loans because of short-term employment.

“It was frustrating and depressing for my colleagues who were working hard, long hours before and during the pandemic. The move will impact about 1,500 nurses and midwives. We are looking forward to the resumption of negotiations.”

Pension plan bolster

On the way forward, Stuart said he was optimistic about the Human Resources departments of the five regional health authorities (RHAs) making the changes to their “unethical and immoral practices”.

Stuart also said another significant move would be the bolstering of the pension fund.

“All RHAs have to pay into it. It would get a significant bolster, once you are no longer on temporary or contract employment.

“The association had issues with the integrity. Since there are new people entering, they can start contributing to the pension fund which is paid partly by the employee.

“On the employers’ side, the employer contributes 23 per cent of their basic salary. It would bolster the plan tremendously. There would be a significant improvement on the interest rate of the plan filled by the bank,” he said.

Stuart also said the TTRNA has approached the Ministry of Labour for approval from the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB) to get TTRNA operating smoothly and efficiently.

He said: “It is the very government that is preventing unions from negotiating. We would have applied to become the majority trade union.

“A simple process that would have taken about three months has entered its sixth, painstaking year. In the absence of RRCB, the State is throwing us a red herring.”

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