Minister assures MSJMC public servants of job security

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Two unions representing the interest of workers at the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) are joining forces to reject legislative changes dealing with the secondment of workers at the hospital.
The Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) and the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association (ABNA) will be meeting with their members at 8:30 this morning to discuss workers’ employment status as it relates to the MSJMC Amendment Bill which will be tabled before parliament tomorrow.
Both unions have determined that the proposed changes in the Bill would trample the rights of workers at the hospital. However, the Health Minister, Molwyn Joseph, has assured that government is only seeking to correct a problem within the system and not to displace workers.
The changes will directly affect public officers, who were seconded from Holberton Hospital to the MSJMC in 2009 and will also complete the transitioning of the hospital to the management of a Board.
During an interview with our newsroom yesterday, Karen Josiah, president of ABNA, said the union is displeased with the draft of the Bill, which was done without consultation with the unions.
Joseph said that ABNA will be meeting with its members to galvanise
support. ABNA also warned it will challenge the Bill which it said is unconstitutional.
“We recognise that they are violating the basic fundamental rights of workers. You can’t have workers worrying about how they will be compensated for their years of service and you are asking them to re-apply. We are saying our workers deserve better,” Josiah said.
Josiah was speaking specifically to section (8) of the amendment which reads, “Every public officer currently seconded to the service of the board shall have the option to apply to the board for employment.”
The ABPSA, on the other hand, has no problem with the secondment, but it is taking issue with the way the process is being handled.
Sandra Williams, general secretary of the ABPSA, said she was disturbed by a section in the explanatory memorandum, which indicated that, “MSJMC is the only public hospital on the island and the skills set of most of the public officers cannot be reintegrated into any other area of the public service. In essence, when the secondment is ended, public officers who are not absorbed by the Board, or who choose not to be absorbed, will face redundancy”.
Williams said, “I am not aware that Mr. Joseph [Health Minister] did any analysis of the public service to determine the skills set of the workers. I find this is outrageous for public officers…. They are creatures of the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, the health minister, said that the explanatory memorandum is inconsistent with the amendments in the Bill.
He stated further that the Bill is only intended to correct a problem that has existed for years which places nurses at a disadvantage.
“When the nurses were seconded from the Holberton Hospital to MSJMC, they were seconded from the public service, because they were a part of the civil service to a statutory body. The MSJMC Act contemplated that this change from public servants to working for a statutory body would have already taken place.
“The reason why we have to correct this, the nurses, when they were transferred to MSJMC they were given an allowance because they were working for a statutory body and they retained their public service status. Many of the nurses when they reached retirement age, their retirement would be computed on the basis of the salary structure of the public service and not the higher wage that they were being paid at MSJMC,” Joseph told OBSERVER media yesterday.
He added that due to that “anomaly” many of
the senior nurses who have already retired had their pensions calculated on the lower sum, which means they were paid a smaller pension.
The minister said that several nurses have called for the problem to be corrected and the government is now seeking to remedy the situation.
The “extremely urgent” meeting between ABNA and MSJMC workers will be held in the auditorium at the hospital.

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