President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart has described the new three-year contracts to be offered to Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) temporary staff as insufficient.
Stuart said on Monday the nurses deserve permanent employment.
He said: “The association, whilst pleased with the announcement by the chief secretary, while we are glad that they, employed by the TRHA under short-term contracts, will be given a bit more stability with new three-year contracts, I think the nurses would have done their duty and deserve a longer form of employment. In our view, while it’s a good move, it is not enough.”
Stuart said the new contracts offer little reprieve as they were still short-term employment.
"We see no difference between the three months, six months, one year, two years or three years – all of them are still temporary forms of employment. We see it as a minimum for where nurses and midwives ought to be...It is just bringing them in line with all the other short-term nurses and midwives who operate within the TRHA.”
He said the TRHA is known for not hiring anyone permanently, noting that staff who are permanently employed with the TRHA are those who would have been hired 15 years ago.
“So there is really no one under 15 years of the service of the authority who is permanently employed in the TRHA. Barring those who would have transferred with their permanency from other RHAs in Trinidad, everyone else who would have been hired is temporarily employed.”
He believes Chief Secretary Augustine is focusing on those who were called to duty in the parallel healthcare system, working with covid19 patients.
“I guess those are the ones he’s eager about. However ,we want a more comprehensive statement with regard to all of the other nurses who are working general and have been getting repeatedly two- and three-year contracts."
Stuart said the focus should not only be on the upgrade of the healthcare infrastructure on the island.
“It cannot be enough that we are willing to build permanent structures in Tobago – billion-dollar healthcare facilities in Scarborough and in Roxborough, which our children will have to be paying back, yet those persons who are working inside of those facilities are given two-year and three-year forms of employment. It’s a total irony. There is no justification for it.”
He recalled that Finance Minister Colm Imbert, after the TTRNA’s nationwide demonstration in October 2021 lobbying for permanent employment for all nurses and midwives, promised government would regularise all nurses across the board.
“We would want to know if they’re doing that in Trinidad – in terms of making these persons permanently on the staff establishment which they have the space to do – s it that TRHA nurse is going to get less than those of their counterparts in Trinidad?”
He said since the December 6 THA elections, he has been trying to contact new Secretary of Health Dr Faith BYisrael without success.
Contacted for comment, BYisrael said the three-year contracts are not only for nurses.
“The 133 individuals who were listed as temporary within the TRHA spanned a large number of professions, so the contracts will need to be tailored to the various tasks. The specifics will be worked out with the TRHA and the THA human resource management teams.”
On a proposed meeting with the TTRNA, she said, “I can’t remember seeing correspondence from the TTRNA.”