According to Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams, over 100 nurses from Grand Bahama engaged in the voting process.
Nationwide, a successful strike poll was held on Tuesday, December 4. President Williams told The Freeport News on Wednesday that members of the union (BNU) were out in full force, lending their voices to take strike action, to address ongoing disputes and concerns between themselves, the Government of The Bahamas, and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).
Reported failure of the Ministry of Health/Department of Public Health to facilitate outstanding payments to nurses, imposed unilateral variations of the Industrial Agreement by the PHA, and the PHA allegedly not following the prescribed process when seeking to amend components of the Industrial Agreement, are just a few of the reasons the BNU is in uproar over.
Williams, speaking exclusively with this daily on Wednesday December 5, noted that the general nurses’ response spoke volumes and was a clear indication that nurses throughout the Commonwealth are in solidarity, standing as one for their rights and due respect.
“It went very well all over the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The nurses in The Bahamas did an excellent job. They exercised their rights yesterday (December 4). This should put an antenna up for the Government and The Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) now, showing that they need to come to the negotiation table with goodwill, good faith, to ensure the workers’ best interest.
“They (nurses) are saying something to you. They are not standing for what you are giving them. That is what they are saying to you. They do not appreciate and they do not want disrespect to be given to them, who are considered the essential service of The Bahamas. They are professional people, with degrees who want and need to be respected in their capacity as nurses,” said Williams.
Williams sounded defiant, and with strong conviction of moving along a necessary course.
“That is all they are saying. Do not wait until the last to pay me. Do not give me the worst benefit ever. Treat me with respect. I am here. My career path, as you know, is not flourishing as others in other countries, and there is no comparison. All nurses want is the respect and what is owed to them. I am not asking you for a raise, I am asking you for the respect. When at the table, I am asking you to come in good faith and goodwill. If you want to negotiate you would not be giving me from $1.00 to $1.75 (hourly premium proposed for nurses working between the hours of 6:00 p.m.. and 6:00 a.m.. in addition to their base pay). That shows what you think of me. You are not paying me for my qualifications and the service that I render, to the Bahamian people,” she said.
As it relates to the unofficial numbers with regard to the strike poll on Tuesday, Williams revealed that an overwhelming 570 nurses throughout the country voted ‘yes’ to strike while just three voted no. The results up to this daily’s press time were still trickling in.
“When we left last evening (Tuesday December 4) the count was 570 nurses said yes and three said no; unofficially. That speaks volumes.
“We have not yet received the results from all of the Family Islands as yet, such as Eleuthera, Abaco and Andros, which we know most of our nurses are on, because they are larger. So it is increasing even more. We are still waiting for the reports that are coming in.”
As it pertains specifically to the count, directly on the island of Grand Bahama, Williams was impressed.
“Grand Bahama has done very well. They came out in full. We had 122 nurses that came out in support. There are less than 200 nurses, so we are pleased with Grand Bahama, in coming to our support. We know some persons are traveling and so that may have been a challenge for some, but they have done an excellent job.
“There is no doubt, as (John) Pinder (Director of Labour) has stated, that they cannot not give us a (Strike) certificate.”
Pinder shared with the media on Tuesday that the response from the poll was overwhelming and that while the results were in their primary stage, the nurses could expect to receive a strike certificate as early as today (December 6).
“It sends a very clear message that we are in unity and we are sticking together. We want the powers that be, to know that.
“We are not going to put the country at any danger. You come with a plan and we will sit to the table with you. If you want a change, you must follow the process. That is all we are asking you. Do not make any decisions on your own, because that is not what the representation of a union is about. We are here. If you want to make a change in the Industrial Agreement, or make an amendment, you have to consult the union.
“You cannot make a unilateral decision because we are the only legal body that represents all nurses in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Agreement means that both parties signed and walked away together, knowing our commitment that we made, to each other; not one party signing and dictating what you are going to do. That is not an agreement, giving me no choice and not input. That is what the nurses are saying,” said Williams.
As this is not the first time in recent months that the BNU has taken such an affirmative stand on their concerns, Williams was questioned whether she was hopeful for a different outcome this time around.
“I believe this is the last time because at the end of the day, (we are hopeful and optimistic). We have a plan and we will carry out our plan, without a doubt. If the sun shines or not, we are going to carry out our plan. They tried to stop us before. We are not going to allow them to stop us, when they are not treating us right. We are not fighting for nothing. We are fighting for a cause and a reason. And so we are optimistic, and I always say, we have God with us and we are honest in our doings. As long as we are honest in our doings and are fair, we know that we will be victorious. We have no doubt. We will try and try until we accomplish our goals.
In conclusion Williams thanked the nurses who “exercised their democratic rights.”
“I just want to thank the nurses of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas for taking a stand. I think they did an excellent job, to prove a point, and what this profession of nursing means to them.
“They want the country and the people to continue to support them, because they will continue providing quality care,” she said in conclusion.