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Intermediary to help nurses and authorities reach agreement

by Barbados Today
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There could be light at the end of the tunnel for scores of nurses locked in a divisive three-week strike, with Government.

Barbados TODAY understands that on Friday, the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), which represents the striking nurses, will return to the bargaining table with Minister of Health and Wellness The Most Honourable Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic.

This time, however, an “intermediary” who apparently reached out to both parties will be working to break the deadlock between the contending factions.

When contacted, UWU General Secretary, Senator Caswell Franklyn was brimming with confidence, and expressed optimism that once the matters were brought to the fore, a favourable outcome would follow.

The union boss is also hoping that once cooler heads prevail, the docked salaries of the striking nurses will be reimbursed.

When asked whether a Christmas eve resolution was attainable, he replied: “Once they hear me and they hear where I’m coming from, they won’t have a choice, because we’re not asking for anything unreasonable.

“Some of the things that we asked for may cost money, but it’s not a lot of money,” said Senator Franklyn.

He revealed that the unnamed mediator, who was once active in public life, is leveraging his or her goodwill with the union and the ministry to strike a fair balance.

Earlier this week, Bostic announced a raft of reforms negotiated between the Barbados Nurses’ Association (BNA) and the health ministry, which covered appointments, uniform allowances, specialised training, late and sporadic pay, and environmental conditions,

Franklyn, however, expressed little confidence in the BNA’s leaders to resolve the pressing matters on his behalf. Rejecting the association’s plea for Unity’s members to return to work, Franklyn said the absence of definitive timelines had rendered the discussions futile.

“They have not gotten anything, because there’s no commitment to go and do whatever they said that they would do within a month, six months, a year, or 10 years. I don’t call that a victory,” Franklyn complained.

The decision to stay on strike is costing his members thousands of dollars in income which Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared would be withheld whilst they were off the job.

Franklyn believes this was based on a misunderstanding of Unity’s proposals on the part of the PM, who has garnered support from four other workers’ organisations.

“You don’t make decisions like that at a press conference when you’re angry and trying to whip up support for whatever you’re doing,” said the Opposition Senator.

“These are decisions that you make after careful consideration of the facts. She does not have all the facts. As far as I am aware, she said that we didn’t send in our proposals.

“What she should’ve said was that our proposal didn’t get to her, because I can assure you that we were discussing these issues going back two, three years with the Director General of the Public Service,” Franklyn added.

The Unity boss revealed that he spoke with Bostic on Thursday, but refused to go into details, “because you do not negotiate in public.”

Still, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations again condemned the actions in a release sent out on Thursday.

In the meantime, he said a flood of donations in cash and kind have been flowing in for the nurses, some of whom are now in need.

“We’ve had a response from people as far away as Canada who are sending money for the nurses and as soon as it landed in Unity’s account, it was out to nurses,” Franklyn disclosed.

“We have several nurses, who, because of their particular circumstances got small amounts of money, which was better than none.

“We had people donating things like turkey, hams, vegetables, beer and other drinks and distributed those… I was very heartened by the response,” he added.

Efforts to reach Minister Bostic for an update were unsuccessful. kareemsmith@barbadostoday.bb

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