July 25, 2020
Chairman of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) has taken to the airwaves to decry the recent action taken by the new Harris administration to reduce the pay scale on the public service payroll system for degreed nurses from K34, amounting to about EC $5,000 per month back to K32, a reduction of about EC $600.
The change in salary scale was the result of intense negotiations that took place in May 2020 after nurses threatened to take strike action for the poor treatment and working conditions which they were facing, especially those working at the Joseph N. France General Hospital.
Dr. Terrance Drew, commenting during a news item on Freedom 106.5 FM, stated that the nurses, who had been risking their lives and working hard on double shifts, did not deserve such treatment. “I have had a number of calls from nurses and I have also had visits from nurses with respect to the present situation. Just before the election, they [(the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis)] had increased their pay scale. They had increased it to K34 and their salaries to $5,000. This was done with the consent of the Permanent Secretary of Health and former Ministers of Health, both the Hon. Wendy Phipps and the Hon. Eugene Hamilton, as well as the Prime Minister. The scale was adjusted and the nurses got their increase. However, less than two months after the [June 5th] election, the nurses have been written to and they have been told that their pay scale will be brought back down to K32, which is a reduction of about $600,” stated Dr. Drew, a medical doctor.
“All this is showing that this, [(the June increase in salary)] was just an election gimmick. A way to deceive the nurses to win their support and their vote in order for the Unity arrangement to get back into power. This is a very hurtful situation and I empathize with the nurses. They would have put their trust in the government and politicians. I want to take the opportunity to extend my support to the nurses. These are professional people who have been hoodwinked and fooled and deceived by this government and it is really sad. I call on the government to reinstate the pay of the nurses … The SKNLP believes that all public servants including nurses should be paid for their degrees without exception. However, this has not been the approach of the Unity administration. The [salary of nurses] was adjusted only around the time of the election with the purpose of winning votes, it was not a significant change in policy. It was just done as part of the deception in order to win the election.”
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party lends its voice in solidarity with our nation’s hardworking, caring and compassionate nurses and midwives. The year 2020 has been declared the “International Year of the Nurse and Midwife” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in recognition of their heroism during this global pandemic. Nursing is a prestigious and valuable profession and our nurses and health-workers generally, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and they should be duly compensated for noble service and their sacrifice.
For the last four years, our nurses have been crying out and agitating regarding the poor working conditions, long hours of work and inadequate remuneration that they face. The very tense situation between our nurses and health officials has caused a lot of resentment and discontent to build up among the ranks of our nurses that led several to take to social media to vent their frustration and threaten industrial action. It was as a result of these valiant and determined efforts by the nurses that the Health officials were forced to sit down with the nurses in May 2020.
For the negotiated position to be abruptly reversed barely two months after the June 5th election, without the proper procedures being followed or an opportunity for redress provided is unacceptable and disgraceful. It also exposes, once again, the deceptive, ruthless and heartless nature the Harris cabinet in relation to our nurses specifically and workers generally.