The Government reached an agreement with its registered nurses Wednesday to pay outstanding allowances owed to them since 2008, costing some $500 million, by the end of October.
The agreement settled the most pressing issue affecting the industrial relationship between the Government and the nurses represented by the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), whose latest protest action was a sick out last week which affected several hospitals.
However, still outstanding is the more tricky issue of the reclassification of the nurses and the increases this implies. The parties agreed that they will meet again on September 22 to “obtain certain clarification in respect of the reclassification review panel”.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon Pearnel Charles(centre), makes a point to members of the Nurses Association of Jamaica’s (NAJ) negotiating team after their agreement on payment of outstanding allowances at the Ministry, North Street, Kingston, Wednesday (September 8). Fourth right is NAJ President, Edith Allwood Anderson.
JIS News understands that the reclassification issue is being hampered by the demand being made by other health sector personnel that certain benefits from the registered nurses reclassification must be extended to them. The other health sector personnel include doctors, pharmacists and practical and enrolled nurses.
President of the NAJ, Edith Allwood-Anderson, told JIS News that her team was very pleased with the agreement. She said that although it took a “very long time” to be settled, the NAJ appreciated the input of Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon Pearnel Charles, who chaired Wednesday’s meeting.
“We will continue to work with the Ministry of Labour to settle the reclassification issue, especially in regards to the clarification of the previous ruling,” she said.
Mr. Charles told JIS News that although the Government had agreed to pay the nurses the outstanding $500 million of the $1 billion they were owed in allowances, this should not be interpreted to mean that the Government could afford to meet other expenses.
“Workers in the public sector need to be aware of the position that the country is in, and how it compares with other countries which are experiencing massive redundancies and are drowning in unemployment, or are cutting wages and allowances,” the Minister said.
“Although we have been spared a lot of the disasters and setbacks which could have occurred, the workers have to give the Government the necessary support it needs to meet the challenges of this critical period,” he stated.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Ministry’s Industrial Relations Division, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.