The main public sector union declared its intention Friday to ask Government to pay all health care workers a hazard allowance.
Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Walrond made the call after nurses at several polyclinics as well as the Geriatric Hospital and the Psychiatric Hospital walked off the job to demand that they benefit in the same way their colleagues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) have.
All staff at the QEH are to be paid a hazard allowance on the basis of being frontline workers in the care and treatment of COVID-19 patients.
But nurses at the Winston Scott Polyclinic at Ladymeade Gardens, Jemmotts Lane and the Eunice Gibson Polyclinic in Warrens sparked industrial action with support from the Geriatric Hospital and the Psychiatric Hospital insisting that they, too, are frontline caregivers and ought to receive hazard pay.
Walrond said: “The QEH one was initiated between that board and the Ministry of the Public Service in terms of looking at their situation. But since you also have this situation that connects to the public service in terms of COVID arrangements, we are mandated also to make representation across the board.”
The workers return to their jobs on Walrond’s advice to allow the union to address their grievance.
He declared: “We are asking all officers to return to work pending the union given the opportunity to meet with the relevant authorities and get this matter addressed. What I can tell you also is that there has been a rush on the NUPW with so many categories of workers arguing that they also should be included. It has been a very, very demanding situation. It is something we have to manage because virtually every worker now is making a claim that they should get this allowance.”
But Walrond explained that the union would be applying best practices in responding to these claims.
The union leader said: “You have to set the criteria, you have to declare the categories on how you are going to approach this matter. This is exactly where we are going to go in this direction. We will move expeditiously in getting the relevant authorities around the table with us and discuss this matter. It is a very, very contentious issue. I don’t think it is as simple as one would think.
“We have been inundated with calls ever since this story broke that the QEH would be paying some type of COVID allowance to its staff especially those who have direct contact with positive cases.”
Walrond also stated that the representative group of nurses reflected the mood of their colleagues from across the board.
He added: “We would have also discussed some other grievances…along with the whole COVID pay…hazard pay. There are also some protocols they want improved and fine-tuned.
“They are asking that management fine tune certain arrangements…and there are some other grievances they would have raised that can be dealt with as expeditiously as possible over a period of time.
“But the main thing right now is the hazard pay and any COVID arrangements that can be dealt with immediately in terms of protocols.”
He explained that not only nurses but all categories of health care workers would be affected by the claim for hazard pay, including support and ancillary staff.
Walrond said he hopes the authorities would treat this issue with urgency, especially considering there is an economic perspective which would be addressed when both parties sit around the bargaining table.