President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses’ Association Idi Stuart
address nurses during a protest at the Arima Health Care Facility on Monday. - Ayanna Kisnale
Protests will continue despite the promised payment of 100 per cent of arrears in increments to healthcare workers at the NCRHA. The PSA and TTRNA, while appreciative of the payment, said that was only one of the issues facing nurses and midwives.
The announcement that workers would be paid their full increments from as far back as 2013 came on Wednesday morning, six days after workers represented by the PSA began protesting. On Friday, an offer to pay 25 per cent of the arrears was rejected by the workers.
PSA spokesman Kester Thomas said during a meeting with CEO Davlin Thomas on Wednesday afternoon, he was told the government partnered with the NCRHA to pay them the money owed. He said payment would be made to the workers between June 30 and July 4. However, he said the payment of the increments was only “victory stage one,” as the union was also protesting for staff to be made permanent and for health insurance for the healthcare workers. TT Registered Nurses Association President Idi Stuart said they appreciated the move by Finance Minister Colm Imbert to pay the NCRHA workers what was owed to them. He added, however, that only workers at the NCRHA, which had been extremely negligent in paying workers their correct salary, were affected and some of the other RHAs also owed increments to workers.
He called for a meeting with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to address issues and decide on a way forward. Without such a meeting, protests by all nurses would continue.
“The issues include permanency of nursing and midwifery staff; the proposal we would have submitted in terms of health insurance, hazard allowance and death benefits; and also the issue with regards to the illegal ambulances that operate within these RHAs. So we have a number of other issues. The list is long.”
Stuart reminded workers that there would be a march in Port of Spain on July 1 to the Ministry of Health demanding that Government recognise the work of nurses and midwives.
At a Ministry of Health virtual press briefing on Wednesday morning, Deyalsingh said the $39 million needed to pay the NCRHA workers came from the budget of the Ministry of Finance and would not affect the Health Ministry’s budget.
NCRHA CEO Davlin Thomas said the board and the ministry had resolved to fix the matter of the arrears in increments since February, when they moved all workers to their correct incremental point so the RHA would stop accumulating payment arrears. He said the next step would have been payment, which had been budgeted for.
“The issue is the payment would not have been possible, if the budgetary request had not been made prior, there was the budget for it, it was really a line in the budget, with the availability of a release to facilitate it.”
Thomas said the payment would have been made eventually and the major unions were aware of that fact. He said the unions in the health-care sector were demonstrating an ability to understand that the RHAs need to continue caring for people even when the unions were advocating.
Efforts to reach Imbert and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West were unsuccessful.