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Government steadfast on 'no work, no pay' position

The Herald, 27 May 2000

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad - Nurses in Trinidad, who were off the job for 72 days and have agreed to return to work, threatened Thursday to remain off the job because of the government's steadfast position not to pay them for work not done.

Acting Health Minister Vimala Tota Maharaj said government does not intend to revoke their decision to deduct salaries of nurses involved in the protest which began more than two months ago. "There is a policy of no work, no pay and we will adhere to that policy at this time," Maharaj said.

Prime Minister Basdeo Panday also insisted that nurses who did not work, should not look forward to a full pay package. "The policy decision of the government was no work, no pay. It is a principled position and that is if you don't work you don't get pay. We can't set an example otherwise," Panday said.

Letters were sent out to the protesting nurses of government's decision not to pay them for the time they were not on the wards.

The nurses stayed away from their jobs to protest poor working condition, and lack of medical equipment. They are also demanding an attractive incentive allowance to return back to work.

The Public Services Association (PSA) President, Jennifer Baptiste said nurses fell betrayed by the government's about-turn on a commitment given at Tuesday night's marathon meeting between the regional health authorities (RHAs) and the union.

The RHAs, which administers the operations of the state run hospitals, during the lengthy meeting said they could not give a commitment that the letters would be revoked since it came from the Ministry of Health but that they were prepared to make a recommendation on it.

During the meeting, the Union and the RHAs resolved a number of contentious issues and Baptiste called on the nurses to return to the wards.

During a heated meeting Thursday at the Port of Spain hospital, nurses told Baptiste that they were unwilling to go back to the wards.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the PSA and the Chief Personnel Officer are still at a standstill following another meeting Wednesday.

Nurses want a 45 per cent incentive allowance but the CPO continues to offer 25 per cent.