TT Registered Nursing Association president Idi Stuart said contract nurses in the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) are demanding permanent employment status.
Close to 40 nurses held a lunchtime protest outside the Accident & Emergency Department at Scarborough General Hospital on Friday, demanding the TRHA address several issues, including permanent employment.
Stuart, who led the demonstration, said Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis erred in saying the THA will standardise three-year contracts for its workers across the board. Dennis made the announcement at the post-executive council news conference on Wednesday.
“We hear the Chief Secretary say they going to regularise and make sure they get three-year contract. Well, let me tell you, Mr Chief Secretary, you started off on the wrong foot,” Stuart declared. “We don’t want no contract here. We want permanent employment. Unless you willing to put up temporary structures, then they have no problem working as temporary workers.”
He added: “If you can find $1 billion to build Roxborough Hospital, we want every nurse that goes in Roxborough to work to be promoted.” Stuart recalled the THRA had told the association permanent employment is a thing of the past.
“Imagine that, Government employees being permanently employed is a thing of the past. Mind you, when persons transfer from other regions who weren’t on permanent, they bring them across on permanent.” Stuart noted contract and permanent nurses are working alongside one another at health facilities.
“So we have two workers working alongside each other with one enjoying better benefits and more stability than the other.”
He said the association has taken the matter to court.
“We want the court to say once and for all if that is legal to allow two staff, same job spec and you paying one more and one less. We want to see if the courts of TT would adjudicate in their favour. So that is a major issue. We are not wavering. We are not flinching.”
Stuart said outstanding increments and gratuity payments also need to be urgently addressed. He said the association is expected to meet with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh on Monday.
Similar protests have been held by nurses in Trinidad within the past two weeks where in one instance, protests at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope led to government deciding to firstly agree to pay 25 per cent of outstanding arrears and then later, announcing that the full amount of arrears owed – close to $30m – will be paid to nurses in that particular Regional Health Authority.
Protests then followed at the Port of Spain General Hospital, the San Fernando General Hospital and the teaching hospital also in San Fernando.