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Public Healthcare workers walkout! They Wanted Better pay

Nurses and doctors across the country today staged a walk-out and they say, they’ve had enough! They walked out in form of protest against unfavourable working conditions, lack of resources, inadequate pay and unfair salary deductions. The first group of nurses and doctors to walk out was from the Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga Town on Saturday. The frontline workers there walked out, citing poor working conditions, poor security, and shortened lunch breaks among other issues. The nurses’ move to walkout depicts a serious challenge because it is a rare occasion that healthcare workers to become active in a demonstration. It caught the attention of the Ministry of Health and Wealth and Minister Kevin Bernard rushed to Belmopan to meet with the leaders of the Nurses Association of Belize. In a joint press release issued this evening, both parties say that the two-hour meeting was constructive and held in a cordial atmosphere, and proved productive. Sharing what was agreed on is Minister Bernard: 

Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health & Wellness: “The overtime calculations will be based on monthly, will be calculated on a monthly basis as opposed to every week or every day where nurses and doctors and all shift workers, because remember now it’s not only applicable to nurse and doctor. This affects all shift workers, attendants, domestic workers, everybody that. It might not necessarily only be at the Ministry of Health, it could be at the other ministries too. But, the issue came up with the nurses and so we have agreed with the Ministry of Finance that that calculation will revert back to where it was calculated monthly so as not to affect a nurse who works on a shift basis where they will be deducted hours if they did not complete their weekly amount according to what the details were provided to us. Now, I think that with that out of the way, the other issue was the short hour deduction that was made this passed pay period for the August 2022 payroll. That immediately sent shockwaves as I would put it across the medical profession and I don’t give nurses or the doctors or any of these frontline workers, shift workers, who as I said in that meeting to the Ministry of Finance are feeling it in their pockets. How can you expect these persons’ basic salary to be deducted and expect that they are to survive for the rest of the month? So my position and the ministry’s position along with the Nursing Association was that we revert that back immediately and that we reinstate those deductions. It was a very back and forth discussion, very fruitful discussion however, where everybody understood. I know from the Ministry of Finance we had a clerk that deals with the payroll system there and all that. They had their issues with technicalities and so they had to look at how we are going to ensure that it hits? It’s outside of the pay period already so they had to look at options. So at the end of the day we agreed that all those persons who had that short hour deducted will be paid by no longer than the 9th September. We’re hoping that they can be paid by Friday. That will be paid through an advance, an interest free staff advance and then reconcile in the September month payroll. As you know that’s how accounting works. You have to make account for it in the pay period because you already closed that previous pay period and at the same time, the overtime sheet for the next few weeks, for the next few days, in fact Friday, the new OT Submission has to go in and so it was crucial that we agree that the new overtime sheet will be adjusted so that it can only reflect total hours worked and if you work more than your, whether you’re a PE and you have that 39.5 per week or you’re an open vote and you have to attain that 45 hours per week, once you’re above that threshold over the month then the overtime is calculated based on the difference of hours that you work. So we should see that issue corrected.”