Hospital workers to file injunction to stop the MSJMC Bill from becoming law

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The government will face a legal challenge from the unions representing hospital workers despite the prime minister’s declaration that [the workers] secured a victory in Parliament on Tuesday.
The Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association (ABNA) and the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) are seeking to prevent the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (Amendment) Bill from being gazetted after it is debated in the Upper House.
The Bill was adjusted and subsequently approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The piece of legislation seeks to bring an end to the secondment of public officers to the employment of the board and to complete the transition of MSJMC to a state-of-the-art public hospital under the management of the board.
Karen Josiah, president of ABNA, said while certain aspects of the Bill were changed to address concerns outlined by nurses and other hospital workers, they are still not completely satisfied.
The head of ABNA said the union is pleased with at least three of the changes. However, the union is not in favour of the decision to preserve the pension of a public servant until the person is ready to retire.
She is also questioning the absence of a pension plan for workers who are directly employed by the board of the MSJMC.
“The board itself does not have a pension plan. How can you say you are going to give me this when you yourself do not have it? We are saying pay me off now, give me my money now.”
Josiah said both unions have already consulted with an attorney who is awaiting the final copy of the amendments before drafting the legal papers.
“We are going to be filing an injunction because we cannot trust what happened in Parliament yesterday [Tuesday]. Because the Bill went through like it did without the consultation of the people, we are going to make that motion that it violated the employees’ rights overall,” Josiah said during an interview on Wednesday.
Nurses and other critical care hospital staff picketed outside the Parliament on Tuesday, because they feared that the adjustments ‘proposed prior to the debate’ would jeopardise the jobs of workers who were seconded to MSJMC from Holberton Hospital.
They were also questioning certain sections of the proposed amendment which stated that public officers currently seconded have the option of applying to the board for employment and another aspect which noted that the positions of public officers who are not employed by the board will be made redundant.
On Monday, Molwyn Joseph, health minister, justified the tabling of the Bill
by contending that the misinterpretation of the amendments stemmed from the language in which they were written, which ultimately caused anxiety among the hospital staff, forcing them to protest.
Detailing the changes, the minister said workers wishing to be part of the MSJMC team, once the secondment has ended, will be afforded the opportunity to write to the authorities indicating their intention no later than 30 days after the secondment.
Additionally, a person who is employed by the board at the end of the secondment period shall cease to be a public officer from the date of being employed by the board and the person’s pension will be preserved until retirement.

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