The 75 nurses and health care professionals on strike from the Linden Hospital Complex will return to work today after being paid approximately $6.6M in outstanding gratuities.
The pay-out came a day after some of the nurses, in defiance of directions by the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), staged a protest outside the Public Buildings to draw attention to their plight.
“A cheque was prepared and was uplifted sometime around noon and taken to Linden,” Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon told Stabroek News yesterday, while noting that the payments were then to be immediately distributed into the bank accounts of the nurses.
Solomon added that he was relieved that the monies were finally being paid. “This was such a trivial and resolvable matter,” he said, while adding that it should never have taken so long for the Ministry of Health to acknowledge.
Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran yesterday stated that in the presence of the deputy permanent secretary, nurses accessed their gratuities, which were directly deposited into their private accounts. Ramsaran also expressed regret that “the nurses had to suffer the avoidable hardship as a result of the administrative delay at the Linden Hospital Complex.”
According to the minister, measures have been put in place to avoid a recurrence. The ministry also denied that the nurses were on strike although he offered no reasons as to what actually occurred.
When Stabroek News spoke to a few of the nurses, they expressed their elation at the outcome of their efforts but remained cautious. Schimze Stephens said that she was glad to see that “the strike worked, we showed them that we cannot be ignored, we went there and got what was ours by force.” Stephens added that she was excited for this issue to be resolved, but noted that she believed that without protesting outside of the Public Buildings and bringing attention to what was happening in Linden, a resolution may not have been so quick.
Stephens added that the she was happy to go back to work but did say that when the hospital was due to pay gratuities in six months, nurses would not be opposed to striking again if they payments were again held up. Yet another nurse told this newspaper that while she was happy to move on from this issue, she has a different outlook. “The ministry, the hospital all they’re saying that this was a mix up and what not but when the minister had a chance to talk to us himself, he drove off,” she pointed out. “If this was such a small thing, why did it take so long to get done? Because they don’t value our work and what we are doing and now we know that,” she added.
Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle stated that this issue happened and ended without the labour ministry being given a courtesy call as to the issues being faced by hospital workers. He said that the ministry was privy to the strike only when an officer was sent on a routine check. “For 17 years, we have been going to Linden two times a month. We can’t know what is going on if they don’t tell us what is happening. If they don’t tell us, then we can’t help with any resolution,” he explained.