NCRHA agrees to regularise ‘GM pool Nurses’

TTRNA sings praises to Minister of Labour Sept 19 v2

In the photo from left to right: TTRNA President – Idi Stuart,

Senator and Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development - Honourable Jennifer Baptiste-Primus,

and TTRNA 2nd Vice President – Letitia Cox.

Friday 27th September 2019, will forever be remembered and marked as a red letter day for nursing personnel in the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) and also for the Nursing Personnel throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

This follows almost three (3) years of a sustained struggle led by TTRNA against NCRHA, in the Union’s attempt to have the discontinuation of the GM Pool employment arrangement of Registered Nurses – otherwise known as ‘Daily paid Nurses’. The GM pool nurses were brought on stream by the NCRHA, as a way of hiring nursing personnel to fulfil the duties as any other nurse in the region, without having to provide them with a properly structured contract.

This meant, these junior nurses were paid pool rates for the days they worked. Therefore they had to work much more hours than a properly employed nurse, to obtain anywhere close to the same salary. They were also not entitled to any vacation leave, maternity leave, casual leave, sick leave, educational courses, promotions, job letters, salary increases, and the list goes on. This form of employment, known as ‘Zero-hours contract’ has been banned in several countries including the UK. Sadly, as the ‘GM Pool’ name implies, it was surprisingly administered under the General Manager of Nursing. It is indeed an indictment on any GM Nursing, to have this unfair work practice to fall under their direct control when they ought to understand the negative effects, both to patients and nurses, of such a terrible practice.

TTRNA, since the launch of our leg of the International Nursing Now Campaign, was also in the process of working with the Ministry of Labour to have the ILO Nursing Personnel Convention No. 149 being adopted in Trinidad and Tobago. This will influence related legislation and prevent any future employers from ever offering such an unscrupulous form of employment to nurses ever again.

Since the inception of this draconian form of employment, TTRNA had been highlighting this issue with the NCRHA management, NCRHA Chairman, Minister of Health, Minister of Finance, and even the Prime Minister in various forums (See video soon to be posted). Unfortunately, without any success in getting them to correct it or even see it as a problem. Therefore, TTRNA was immensely grateful for the Minister of Labour -Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, for responding to our repeated calls and directly intervening through the holding of open and frank discussions between TTRNA and the management of NCRHA on Friday 28th September 2019.

Senator Baptiste-Primus showed her years of experience and knowledge as a trade union leader in handling the often flammable discussions, while providing deep insight as to the legal ramifications to this practice and the background to when ‘pool’ was first introduced. TTRNA truly appreciates the mettle and poise the Honourable Minister brought to these discussions.

A snapshot of some of the major decisions coming out this marathon meeting, are as follows:
1. No further Registered Nurses will be hired under the GM pool arrangement.
2. All existing ‘GM pool nurses’ will be regularised into the staff establishment before the end of 2019.
3. Nurses who are currently on successive 1 year ‘Continuous Temporary employment’ will be made Permanent employees of the NCRHA (some of these nurses have been working more than 10 years in a temporary capacity).
4. Nurses will be placed at their correct incremental point on the salary scale, according to their years of service with the region.
5. Outstanding pension contributions for years of service will be made by the parties into the approved employee pension fund.
6. No nurse will be allowed to work alone on any ward in the hospital. Any shortages must be filled with the regular pool arrangement for senior experienced nurses, which will now be expanded.

NCRHA was represented at this meeting by its CEO, GM Nursing, GM Human Resource, GM Industrial Relations, and CFO. The commitment made by the NCRHA to the TTRNA and the Minister of Labour, will not only benefit nursing personnel, but benefit all other categories of staff with the NCRHA on a phased basis. TTRNA also commends the NCRHA CEO – Davlin Thomas, for giving his word to urge the Ministry of Health to release the requisite funding, to enable the RHA to execute all aspects of this commitment. TTRNA eagerly awaits the reading of the budget by the Finance Minister and the subsequent budget response by the Minister of Health, to ascertain if the funding has been made available.

Failure to meet all of these commitments and deadlines given by the CEO, TTRNA will have no choice but to continue with its several Industrial and High Court matters we have already filed against the NCRHA, which are set to be heard in early 2020. Until then, our focus shifts to nurses employed in TRHA, and the continuous short-term contract employment offered by that region.
Nurses in the NCRHA desirous of more detailed information as to how this will affect them, can attend TTRNA’s Northern Branch meeting (Tuesday 8th October 2019) at the conference room of Mt Hope Women’s Hospital for 4pm.

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