Day one of the Nurses Association’s was today and the Ministry of Health and Wellness is keeping an eye on the situation. The Nurses Association of Belize joined the Joint Unions in their demonstration on Tuesday. It is the first time that the nurses have embarked on this type of industrial action. President of the Association Darrell Spencer told the press on Tuesday that nurses are against the ten percent salary cut. But today, Health and Wellness Minister Michel Chebat explained that the Government had proposed to protect frontline health care workers by not cutting their salary but that proposal was rejected by the Joint Unions.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “This is a situation that we’ve been monitoring very closely with all of our regions. The reports we’ve had up to this morning is that all of our nurses are in fact at work but the Ministry does have a contingency plan in case that does not happen. I want to highlight and I want to emphasize and to remind that we are in a pandemic and the vaccinations is a part of our response to the pandemic and so vaccinations do constitute an essential service. I can also assure you that today vaccinations are being carried out. We do have a contingency plan in case the nurses would decide that they would not carry out the vaccination exercise but so far the nurses are carrying out the exercise and so we are confident that that process will continue. Part of the discussion in the initial phase was to exclude the healthcare workers from the ten percent cut however it is my understanding that that proposal was rejected by the unions. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is always open to discussion with the nurses and the nursing association to see how best we can meet their concerns so we would hope that this would not go on a full strike.”
As for the nurses’ concerns, Minister Chebat says that the government continues its best to address those concerns.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “We have been trying our best to understand the issues that are facing the nurses and how best to resolve them. We are dealing with the issue of overtime to make sure that if there’s any overtime pending that we can find the resources to pay them. I can tell you that tomorrow nurses week begins and we are looking at things such as the uniform allowances that they’ve been entitled to to see how we can best get that to them. I know that they have not gotten that in over a year and so that is a concern for them especially now with this pandemic where they’re working a lot of over time. We’re also looking at the overtime they’re working and to make sure that they have sufficient coverage on that and to make sure that we’re paying them in a timely manner. So there are little things that we’re looking at to see how best we can fix or to improve their conditions of service.”