|Eight EMS workers on Grand Bahama suspended|
Freeport News Reporter
Published: Sep 17, 2012
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - Eight Emergency Medical Services (EMS) employees have been suspended without pay after a staged sickout on Friday in which they failed to show up for their scheduled shifts.
“The action would be for those who have not met their 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift and the 12 midnight to 8 a.m. shift on Saturday morning,” Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) Northern Region Vice President John Curtis said.
The employees will be suspended for a five-day period that began yesterday, after the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) determined that they committed an illegal strike action, which Curtis said was not supported by the union.
He said the disciplinary action is in accordance with the PHA’s discipline policy and regardless of the employees’ actions, the union has to represent its members and negotiate for the most lenient reprimand for them in the matter.
Curtis said he felt the EMS personnel acted prematurely when they did not show up for work.
“The staffers at EMS were either collectively ill-advised or whomever they sought council from, they didn’t seek council from the union in terms of taking action, because you cannot write a letter to a manager one day, and act the next day,” he said.
According to a release by the PHA, the letter in which EMS personnel listed their concerns was written on September 13, but it was not faxed to the PHA until September 14, the same day in which the sickout occurred.
“That was very premature for them to in their letter indicate that they would withdraw their service, should their demands not be met, and you do not give them a fair chance for there to be some type of dialogue with management and the union to bring some resolve to your matters,” Curtis said.
When The Freeport News spoke with one of the EMS workers on Friday, the employee said they acted after receiving no response from the PHA following the letter in which they highlighted their concerns.
“The insurance was one of the main things that triggered us, because we noticed that our safety wasn’t a part of their priority and we also noticed that training wasn’t a part of their priority,” the employee said.
“If we want to do training here on this island we have to do it out of our pockets, whereas Nassau and Abaco would be able to get their training done for free. They are under the Public Hospitals Authority’s budget [and] we are under the Grand Bahama Health Services budget.”
The EMS employee said they handled a tuberculosis case several weeks ago and they are frequently on the front line handling cases of communicable diseases, but their health is not considered.
“With the tuberculosis case we asked them if someone is found positive with TB or cholera if the EMS personnel would be tested. They said yes, but we asked them if our families would be tested and they said no, but the family of the patient would be tested? What’s the difference between their family and our family,” the EMS worker asked.
Curtis said EMS personnel have pleaded for sometime that they do not have reliable ambulance units to service the island. He felt that the PHA’s announcement that eight new ambulances will be coming to Grand Bahama would at least be welcomed, even as they wait to have other issues addressed.
Curtis said the actions of the EMS staffers was conducted by them solely, and that workers everywhere should know that withdrawing their labor in these challenging economic times could lead to dire consequences in terms of employment and further advancement of their careers.
“We from the union would support staffers in terms of doing it the right way, in making requests for matters to be solved,” he said.
Curtis said the union is greater than an individual and while there is strength in numbers, it must be supported by an organization.
“We have seen where there have been instances when governments have gotten rid of entire groupings of persons, and everybody could be terminated at any point once they are paid, so you don’t want to jeopardize your job to that level,” he said.
Curtis advised workers to be cautious about taking advice without receiving proper advice from union representatives.