Minister Steele's Statement on Nurses' Industrial Action

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 11:03 PM- George's, Grenada

Heartfelt apology to the Nation and to the elderly lady from St. Andrew’s who had an appointment in Mirabeau yesterday…

The Grenada government has noted the reported industrial action in the country’s health sector.

Government was not informed of a breakdown of any kind before a segment of the leadership of the Public Workers Union agitated the walkout.

However, we do recognize that the substantive president is away for medical reasons, and in that regard, we want to wish him a speedy recovery. We look forward to him returning soon and joining us at the table…

The government is committed to continuing the dialog with the Public Workers Union, as well as the Nurses Association on all matters regarding working conditions of the island’s nurses.

We acknowledge and appreciate that for generations the island’s nurses have had to work under many challenging circumstances, and that while progress on many issues has been made in recent years, and more significantly, in recent months, there are still many more that are outstanding.

Some of the issues mentioned in reports about this current protest are being very actively addressed, including retroactive payments and increments, for which negotiations are ongoing.

Because of all of these, we believe that this week’s industrial action is both surprising and unfortunate, and invite the nurses to return to the job, and the union leaders to return to the discussion and negotiating table.

We also note that the government has been waiting for the last two months for a proposal from the PWU to discuss salary and other benefits for all public sector workers, which also include nurses. To date, we have received proposals from the GUT, Police welfare, but not from the Public Workers Union, which represents the nurses.

The government is eager to start the broad negotiations on all these matters, and look forward to the submission of all proposals for consideration.

It also appears that the union is opposed to the plan to some 80+ nurses and nursing assistants on a part-time contractual basis.

It must be noted that these nurses have been without work for many months in spite of their qualifications.

Because of the ongoing structural adjustment programme, government is debarred from hiring these nurses on a full-time permanent basis.

 The option therefore, until there are permanent openings, is to either engage them in the way proposed, or leave them on the breadline.

As a responsible, caring government, we do not believe the second option is a practical one, especially since the Association publicly stated that these nurses are eager to contribute to the public health care system.

The union must now state clearly whether or not it is opposed to the principle of employment…
The proposal as put forward by the government, not only provides an opening and opportunity to these previously unemployed nurses, but also has the potential to contribute significantly to lifting the quality of the nation’s healthcare.

Both the rejection of this proposal by the union leadership, and the ill-timed and ill-advised industrial action, puts the well-being of the patients – our family members and friends – at risk.

We invite all parties to act responsibly and legally in this essential service in the interest of the general good.

As a caring, working class government we look to continue dealing with all the challenges in a respectful and sensitive manner.




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