Nearly 80 percent of the staff of the Princess Margaret Hospital's engineering department called in sick yesterday to protest a delay in their long awaited hazardous pay, said union officials.
Around half a dozen supervisors and staff in the Maintenance and Bio Medical building were forced to carry out the duties of a normally 30-plus member crew when more than 20 workers called in sick on Tuesday, said the hospital's administrator Coralee Adderley.
"We have not heard from any representatives [of the staff]," she told The Nassau Guardian. "But actually there were no effects from their absence today. Despite the fact we had heavy rain we had no disruptions in services."
The maintenance staff is responsible for painting, lighting, repair jobs, sewerage problems and fixing general malfunctions at the state-run hospital. But the sick-out could continue today, said President of the Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU), John Pinder, who admitted that he also had not heard from any of the workers.
He explained that the industrial action was sparked by a delay in the hazardous pay, which was supposed to be included in this month's pay period.
According to Pinder, the staff apparently learned that correspondence had not been forwarded to the payroll section allowing for hazardous pay, even after management promised it to the workers last month.
Pointing out that the pay was retroactive to July 2005, Pinder said the workers should have received their money already and now it was up to management to keep their part of the bargain. He explained that management had promised the staff the hazardous pay on the condition that they submitted a comparison with persons in other government agencies, as it related to salaries.
"It was agreed that we would do it and send the information on the findings," Pinder said. "By them not responding timely it may have caused frustration to the staff [but] I'm sure that if they get some word that the matter has been resolved and they would be receiving their pay, they may be back in to work."
Managing Director of the Public Hospital Authority, Herbert Brown, said he would ensure that the staff members received the allowance that is due to them and that investigations would be carried out to find out why the pay was delayed. He confirmed that specific instructions were given about the hazardous pay under an industrial agreement between the Hospital Authority and the BPSU.
Said Brown: "If they didn't get it last month I would seek to ensure that allowance is paid as quickly as possible."
Guide to sick-ins