With the release of recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Public Service, Region 10 (Upper Demerara- Berbice) Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) representative Maurice Butters is urging swift implementation, noting that workers continue to be adversely affected.
The GPSU rep has for years been advocating for improvements in working conditions of the region’s public service employees. According to Butters, issues such as contract employees and their benefits, as well as non-payment of gratuity are still affecting workers. These issues were highlighted months ago at the CoI into the Public Service.
Making particular reference, Butters said all employees at the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) are contract workers, who to date are awaiting change so they can be made permanent, which would mean they would be eligible for all benefits.
“We are still waiting on someone, in higher authority, to say something on these issues. All employees of the Linden Hospital Complex are contract employees, from the CEO right down. If a Doctor is employed by the LHC he is placed on contract”, the GPSU Representative stressed.
He added that coming out of the CoI recommendations was for all contract employees to be made permanent, however, no move has since been made in this direction.
Several issues regarding gratuity payments continue to plague employees, including nurses, and others, who have staged several protests over the issue, the GPSU Rep said.
“We are trying to see how we can revive gratuity payments for female employees. The contract of those employees state that they will receive gratuity based on service. The then Minister of Health spent weeks in Linden trying to coerce employees to come over to the Ministry and promised to corporatize the hospital. The employees were asked to sign a one-year contract to safeguard their pension, and gratuity was paid in lieu of pension. The contract signed then was to safeguard pension for service provided”, Butters said.
He added, however, that it was then changed, and gratuity was paid according to performance, instead of service. Additionally, Butters stated that there has been misinterpretation in the computing of gratuity payments since it is supposed to be calculated on a three-month basis, however he said payments are received every six months.
“If that employee proceeds on maternity leave and that leave commences within the last months of the six-month period that they are paid for, then they lose an entire year of gratuity. Although the contract clearly states that they should be assessed within a three-month period. Nobody is looking at these issues affecting nurses”, he declared.
Issues highlighted by the St John’s ambulatory staff attached to the LHC several months ago has also received no attention, the union Rep said, as he accused the institution’s board of not taking a stand on behalf of the affected workers.
Those issues ranged from salary, to benefits and allowances. According to staff, the salary is presently minimum wage, since they are paid $18,000 fortnightly.
Apart from that, it is alleged that employees do not receive double and time-and-a-half payments for working on Sundays and holidays in some instances. It was also highlighted that they are required to work eight hours for five consecutive days, followed by two days off.
“We would have expected the board to do something but it is inactive. Apart from that, the board is being manipulated by a few people. Employees are asking why a Minister of the Government (Valerie Adams-Patterson), should be part of the board”, he said.
Butters had testified at the CoI into the Public Service in Linden a few months ago.