'No better time' to protest

PSA leader Watson Duke  -
PSA leader Watson Duke -

Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has called for massive demonstrations at all regional authorities across the country on June 30.

Duke's promise was made as he delivered his Labour Day message virtually on Friday.

Duke said healthcare workers were soldiers during the novel coronavirus (covid19) pandemic and to date, they have received no increases nor reward.

“I want to say to these healthcare workers, wherever you are in Trinidad or Tobago, that help is also on the way," Duke said.

“On June 30, I wish for all health care workers to report at San Fernando General Hospital, Mt Hope or the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Port of Spain General Hospital, Sangre Grande General Hospital and Scarborough General Hospital. I would be making visits to all of these hospitals on June 30 and I would be giving you a particular message. On that day, I would tell you things would begin to end, on that day we would have an agreement regarding the payment of all debts owed to us, all outstanding increments – 100 per cent.

"We would also have a reward negotiated for all healthcare workers: we’re talking nutritionist, dieticians, wards maid, attendants, doctors, nurses. I know nurses think that they’re the only one but no, you are not the only ones. We have everyone within the healthcare system and they too must be rewarded.”

Duke, who also serves as head of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) said that whatever the government is paying the teachers, they would have to pay healthcare workers the same.

The North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) earlier this week said 100 per cent of arrears for increments would be paid to its health workers between June 30 to July 4.

Duke said, “Any public officer, once you’ve been called out from your vacation leave, the precedent has been set, you would get between $500 and $1,000 per day for every vacation day that you took off.”

The PSA boss said the union is also working to secure the health plan, not only for those who are currently employed but for those who have retired.

He added: “Not to give up, not to give in, there had been no better time. This is the perfect time. I challenge you to stand with your union; whether it be PSA...whatever the union is, contractors and general union. Stand with your union, stand behind your leaders and let’s get this job done now.”

Duke is also calling for a salary increase for public officers. He recalled at the end of December 2013, public officers received their last increase, noting that since January 1, 2014 their salaries have been stagnant.

“We’re now in 2020 and gas prices have increased, taxi fares have increased, groceries have increased, rent has increased, even diseases have increased. We are now battled with the pandemic called covid19, death has increased... death physically and debts as money,” he said.

Duke said he has been clamouring for increases for PSA members but the Government has been ignoring him.

“Yes, I have been asking but those who are in Government have not been answering, and I continue to ask.

“Currently, we are awaiting further discussion with the Ministry of Finance and the personnel department so as to classify all the absent days during the pandemic period as leave that was paid – grant of leave for extraordinary circumstances. We have held discussions with the CPO, the Ministry of Finance and (between) now and the 15th (July), I am told, we should be able to have an agreement.”


"'No better time' to protest"

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