Kaieteur News – The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Georgetown Public Corporation (GPHC) does not need to advocate for higher pay for nurses. He heads a public corporation which can pay nurses an increase in pay.
As a corporation, the GPHC is the master of its own affairs. A public corporation is not part of the public service. As such, it is not bound by public service pay-scales. It can offer its workers a higher pay than that which is paid in the public service.
In fact, the monthly salary of the CEO of the GPHC is likely to be far higher than that of a permanent secretary. So there is no need to seek government approval for increasing nurses pay.
The GPHC is a public corporation. Public corporations are not synonymous with government. Nor are their officers considered as public servants. This was the view expressed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in a case which was decided in 2006.
In that instance, the learned Justices of the CCJ quoted Lord Denning who in Tamlin v. Hannaford (1950) had this to say: “In the eye of the law the corporation is its own master and is answerable as fully as any other person or corporation. It is not the Crown and has none of the immunities and privileges of the Crown. Its servants are not civil servants and its property is not Crown property…(it) is not a government department nor do its powers fall within the province of the government.”
The corporation has a legal personality that is separate and distinct from its owners. A corporation is different from a public service body since it has the capacity for perpetual existence, its ownership is transferable – and transferable even to the private sector as in the case of privatisation – and it enjoys limited liability. When it acts, it acts in its own name.
Each year, the government allocates a subvention to the GPHC. This year the government has budged $14.5B for the hospital. Therefore the resources are available to pay the nurses an increase in wages. The CEO simply needs to get the Board of Directors to approve of an increase. To the extent the CEO can make savings in other areas of both recurrent and capital expenditure, to that degree he can convince his Board of Directors to pay the nurses the increase they deserve.
Even though the GPHC is a public corporation, its employees, according to principles laid out by the CCJ, are not public officials. Nor are they, again according to the CCJ, employed in a civil capacity. As such, there is no way in which the nurses or any employee of the GPHC can be entitled to duty free concessions, on motor vehicles.
The PPP/C had entered into an agreement for a limited number of duty free concessions for teachers. The APNU+AFC had continued this practice. But it is doubtful whether if there is a legal challenge to these decisions that the government would be able to justify such concessions as being valid under the law.
It is no use giving nurses a duty free concession when few of them would be able to pay for upkeeping a motor vehicle on their present salaries. Pay them a proper salary and they will, over time, be able to save to purchase their own vehicles. That is the way of the world.
As for scholarships, the government has launched the Guyana Online Academy which offers scholarships to all eligible Guyanese. Nurses are not looking for scholarships; they want lifted that onerous bond which forces them to serve the State for a prescribed period after their graduation from nursing school.
Nurses have opportunities. Many of them when they have completed their contractual service, leave for England which is outsourcing its training to poor countries like Guyana. We are training our nurses and as soon as they can they leave with their families for England. The nurses would much prefer to be able to be free agents to sell their services to the highest healthcare providers, including in England.
The CEO of the GPHC should therefore focus his attention on the salaries issues. All he needs to do is to put forward a proposal to the Board of Directors of the hospital. Once that proposal is accepted he can vire the funds to pay the nurses.
The nurses will be happy and he will be assured that he will enjoy much greater respect than his colleague CEO at the Linden Hospital. The ball is therefore in his court.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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