Janelle De Souza
Health care workers at the San Fernando General Hospital on Saturday protested the two per cent wage increase offered by Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial to settle the wage negotiations for the past eight years.
Ward manager Ricardo Goolcharan led a small group of hospital workers, ringing bells in the corridors and the car park. Workers protested on their day off so as not to disrupt the operations of the hospital.
On May 19, Dindial offered hourly, daily and weekly-rated workers of the Central Government, the Tobago House of Assembly and municipal corporations zero-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-zero-one for salary increases from January 2014 to January 2021.
“One per cent is nothing! Absolutely nothing. We not taking that!” shouted members of the group.
Goolcharan said they wanted a 25 per cent wage increase so their officers could have a living wage – pay rent, buy food, and get to work.
He noted that, according to the CSO, the inflation rate from 2014 to 2021 was 21.82 per cent with food increasing by 44 per cent, and fuel increasing from 17 to 161 per cent.
He said the workers cared for the people of TT, which was why they worked without a break during the pandemic, even when they were understaffed, overworked, and under-equipped. Now they were mentally and physically drained.
“Our purchasing power has been eroded. For far too long government has held health care workers for ransom because we care about the people.”
He said just as government ministers and big business owners got tax exemptions, health care officers should as well. He said the working class of TT were the ones paying the bills of the country yet they have no exemptions.
“People will not remain in power forever. Men and their desires and follies, for corruption and for false promises, their days are numbered. Because it has too many parliamentarians who have degrees, masters, doctorates, and not enough people with heart who care for the people.”
That event marked the second wage protest by health workers as, on Friday, a cross-section of hospital workers at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, marched through the compound.
Idi Stuart, president of the TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA), told Newsday only daily-paid health workers were directly affected by the CPO’s offer as they were represented by the National Union of Government and Federated Workers. However, the TTRNA would stand in solidarity with other unions to reject the proposal.
He explained that doctors, nurses and other monthly-paid health workers were under the regional health authorities, and so would have to negotiate with their respective CEOs.
However, the CEOs had to negotiate with unions with recognised majority status, and the only such union was the Medical Professionals Association of TT (MPATT) for doctors. He said the TTRNA applied for recognised majority union status since 2015 but the government had yet to complete the process, and no group had applied for monthly-paid health workers.
“We need to negotiate with the CEOs of the RHAs but (Finance Minister Colm) Imbert has not given the instructions for CEOs to begin negotiations. They allowed MPATT to negotiate for doctors without it having RMU status in 2001/2002 and TTRNA wants to be given the same opportunity since government inefficiency is delaying the process.”
Stuart said about two weeks ago the TTRNA wrote to Imbert to intervene by either advising the population on how health workers would get an increase or by instructing the CEOs to begin negotiations.
He said the union was giving the CEOs until June 19 to take action or the union would have to “take it up a notch.”