…say Christmas looks gloomy
More protest action was the scene at City Hall yesterday; this time it was municipal nurses demanding the immediate payment of salaries owed to them over a five-month period.
At least two nurses who commenced services with the Mayor and City Council in August last, are yet to receive payment from since then. The nurses who perform midwife duties are stationed at various health facilities in southern city communities. They were supported by several of their co-workers who protested in solidarity. The nurses staged their action in the City Hall parking lot; facing the office of the Town Clerk, who, according to them (nurses), is refusing to sign off on their payments.
Shandra Hanover said she has been in the medical profession since 1981. The senior nurse said she had earlier retired from the post as midwife, but had returned to the job given the shortage of nurses. Sharon Chase said she too had started out in the medical profession since 1987, but had worked with various medical agencies in different capacities, until joining the municipal nurses.
They both stated that in August they came onto the job, but to date there has been no payment. The women said they have made inquiries but were unable to get a definite answer. Hanover said that questions related to their payment were posed to the Council’s Personnel Department, but they were told that the money have to be approved.
The medical workers said they also went to the Ministry of Labour since October and an individual named Mrs. Williams had promised to help. They said they were advised by the Ministry not to stay away from the job since they could be recognized as leaving the job. However, to date there has been no response on to the matter from the Labour Department.
Other nurses who used their lunch break to express solidarity with their co-workers described the treatment of the nurses as “unreasonable and depressing.” One nurse said that the non-payment could have happened to any one of them and it is unfair to workers who would have put time and effort into learning their trade.
“We are trained to do our jobs in a professional manner and we must be paid, because we have families to take care of and lives to live,” another nurse stated. It was expressed further that the nurses at yesterday’s exercise are those who service communities such as Albouystown, Festival City and other depressed areas that desperately need the already inadequate service that is provided.
Both Hanover and Chase said that it is very difficult functioning without their salaries. When asked about bills and Christmas preparations, “They (bills) are backing up,” Hanover responded, while Chase expressed concern over being able to bring Christmas cheer to her family.
The unpaid nurses said they are not contemplating leaving the job because they love what they do and the areas they serve are desperately in need of it. They had mentioned also the overtime and extra effort that they are putting into their jobs, especially during the recent flood which delayed service and caused a back-up in patients.
Mayor Hamilton Green explained that his understanding of the matter is that the payments for the nurses have been on the Town Clerk’s desk for some time, having been sent there by the Council’s Treasurer’s Department. He said information from the personnel department is that in the hiring of the nurses, all procedures were followed and the nurses were “duly” employed. He said the Council’s Health Department has a shortage in medical workers and vacancies were available. The Treasurer’s Department approved the payments, but the Town Clerk is yet to sign off.
When media personnel sought a comment from the acting Town Clerk, Carol Sooba, at her office, her personal security, informed that she was unavailable.
This is the second set of protest action outside of City Hall. Union members had for two days shut down city markets among other municipal arms when they were not paid their five percent increase. An emergency meeting brought an end to those protests when it was decided that the workers have to be paid. The nurses have promised, however, to forfeit their lunch break in support of their colleagues until they are paid their salaries.
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