Barbados Nurses Take to the Streets, Again

Submitted by Tee White

On 17 January, striking nurses from the Unity Workers Union once again took the streets of the capital Bridgetown to press their demands that the government address their long held grievances and abandon its attempts to starve them into surrender. United with one voice behind their slogans of ‘No retreat, no surrender’ and ‘Touch one, touch all’ the nurses marched from Cheapside to the newly opened Golden Square Park which commemorates the struggles of a previous generation of fighting workers from the people’s rebellion of 1937. Many onlookers expressed their support for the striking nurses, condemned the government for ‘unfairing the nurses’ and demanded that they address the nurses’ longstanding grievances. One of the striking nurses, who has worked in the health care system for over 14 years was interviewed. The interview is presented below.

Interviewer:

Can you tell us why you are here today? Why are you marching today?

Nurse:

So, today I am marching because of the different grievances that have been ongoing and current things that have taken place within the nursing fraternity. Mainly the straw that you can say broke the camel’s back was the safe zones that were brought up and then we heard, “oh, it wasn’t ready”. But we know it’s just a matter of time before that comes back. How could it be right that a nurse could not work for 14 months? I thought I had heard incorrect. 14 months? That is a year and two months. Who will do that? I mean, I, myself, when I first started, I worked three months without pay. I had to wait three months so I can understand but I honestly, lots of things that were happening because the institutions, you don’t know everything that’s going on at different institutions, I could not believe it. I could not believe that at a healthcare institution, at a hospital, they would not be phones on a ward, that nurses are using their cell phones to call doctors, or the nurses would have to walk across a yard day or nighttime. No, man, this is Barbados. It’s ridiculous. Nurses are using or re-using things like NG tubes. I am sorry, but I wouldn’t want that for my relatives. And I cannot condone that. If you can find money to do all kind of other things, why can’t you find money to do what is important and you say that you care about the health of our nation? That says something different to me. That’s just some of the things, but there, there are more issues, but enough is enough. It’s time that we take a stand.

I think by nature, nurses try to accommodate everybody. But what are you doing to your colleagues who are going all of this time with families and can’t support them? It hard for people who get paid every month, furthermore for people who ain’t get paid for a long time. It is ridiculous. Something has to be done about it. And that’s why I’m here today to lend my support. I mean, it’s not happening to me personally, but if my colleague is hurt, we have to work as a team. If my colleague is hurt, I will feel that pain. I think that in the workplace, it is toxic, for lack of a better word. I think the workplaces are toxic and people would just give you lip service, but they’re not doing anything. They just putting on makeup on a face full of pimples. So that’s why I’m here today to lend support and demand that change comes about. We are not unreasonable. We know that you can’t meet all of the grievances that we have, but you have to start somewhere. And the mere fact that you met with taxi people, but up to know, you have not met to see what’s going on to see how you will bring resolution or redress. I think it is ridiculous.

Interviewer:

The government said they will talk to you, but first you have to call off the strike. What do you think about that?

Nurse:

No. So does that make sense? You can talk to me after I call off the strike. So if you give me things that are not in agreement with me, I already gone back to work. So that makes no sense? Nobody with common sense would do that. No, no. You meet with me. You meet with the representative, the general secretary, and we tell the general secretary what we want. So when you meet with him and he brings back what your proposals are, we will say, we agree with this, or we don’t agree with this. For me to stop striking and go back to work that means I surrender and I say all is well. And all is not well.

Interviewer:

So you know this is the election time. We got an election coming up on Wednesday. As a nurse, who’s involved in this struggle for your rights as nurses and to protect the patients as well, do you have any message to send to either the existing government or whoever should be the new government when they come in after Wednesday?

Nurse:

Whoever comes, whoever wins, I know that their job will be difficult, but if you understand the pandemic that we are in, you have to make your nurses comfortable. Comfortable workers have good production. So that’s what you need to do. I know that everything will not be able to be done at one time, but you have to prioritize what is important. So we will see.

5 comments

  • @Mia Mottley

    You have the mandate you wanted, please get the striking nurses back to work.

    Like

  • Franklyn still in thick of things

    Trade unionist says he won’t be silent
    Former Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn is putting the Mia Amor Mottley Government on notice that even though he is no longer a member of the Senate, he has no intention of going quietly into the good night.
    He told the Sunday Sun that before he had an official platform, he never shied away from keeping tabs on the ruling administration, and with the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) again capturing all 30 seats in the House of Assembly, he has every intention of speaking out loudly whenever he believes a governmental overreach has occurred.
    Franklyn, one of two senators from then Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley’s People’s Party for Democracy and Development, said there were still powerful megaphones in the form of traditional media and social media, and if those failed to effect the change necessary, the courts remained an option.
    “I was a voice out there before I was in the Senate. In fact, I believe that it was for this reason that [Atherley] chose me to be a senator. I was writing, I was on the call-in programmes, I was doing everything, but being in the Senate just made it more formal. I have no intention of stopping because I am no longer a senator; that does not make sense at this critical point in Barbados’ history.”
    He charged that the current Government had a track record of attempting to sneak through legislation and he anticipated this will worsen without the checks and balances of an official Opposition.
    More vigilant
    Franklyn said civil society had to be more vigilant than before, and he intends to be one of the leading voices in this regard.
    “We the people are going to have to endeavour to hold the Government’s feet to the fire. What the Government has been doing in the past is to publish legislation and debate them the same time and passing them the next day. We have to demand more scrutiny because the only people to do this are the people themselves.
    “We must make sure that the Government follows its own rules. We cannot allow Government to continue to sneak through these [laws] unless there is greater scrutiny. Everybody has access to Parliament’s website, so when bills come up I would still look at them and they (Government) would find that my voice is going to be even louder outside of Parliament,” he said.
    In terms of the BLP’s resounding victory in last Wednesday’s General Election, he noted: “I did not expect the Government to lose but I didn’t expect them to get 30 seats. It was an extremely low turnout but low turn-outs always favour the BLP,” he said, adding the ruling party was only able to muster 29 per cent of the votes.
    Question of leadership
    As to the Democratic Labour Party’s second consecutive wipeout at the polls, he put it down to leadership.
    “The Dems did not have the kind of confidence in Verla (De Peiza). The Dems always lose when they have a situation where the leader is unpopular.”
    Franklyn reasoned that De Peiza’s stepping down as party president on Friday “was the only decent thing to do. Trying to hang on for people who don’t want you? That is obvious”.
    Asked if he anticipated being selected among the seven independent senators which President The Most Honourable Dame Sandra Mason could pick, Franklyn said: “I would go tomorrow if anybody ask, but I don’t see it as a possibility.”
    Franklyn, who was once a close associate of Sir David Simmons who held the St Thomas seat for the BLP for several years before he retired, recalled that he was once approached by Prime Minister Mottley to run in that constituency, while people in St Lucy also asked him to run there because of his family roots.
    “I told Miss Mottley I am not interested,” he said. Franklyn, who also heads Unity Workers’ Union, is currently leading a strike by nurses, which began last month, over myriad issues, which has had an impact on health care and the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. With the General Election out of the way, he said they will ramp up their industrial action in the coming week.
    “We have the same administration returned to power, who has taken a stance earlier that they would not be meeting with us. So the nurses intend to push forward with their action, but we will be meeting tomorrow (today) to discuss our plans, There will be a press conference on Tuesday to update the public on the planned nurses’ strike so they can know how to organise themselves,” he added.
    (CLM/MB)

    Source: Nation

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  • Something big coming, says Franklyn

    GENERAL SECRETARY of Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), Caswell Franklyn, says a major development is on the horizon in the ongoing nurses’ strike.
    However, he did not say what it is or exactly when it will be.
    “Not yet,” he said yesterday, “but it’s going to be big. I can’t give any more details right now.”
    The UWU is embroiled in a nine-week nurses’ strike, which started with a handful of disgruntled health professionals but soon grew to include almost 200. To date, there have been cancelled talks, two protest marches through The City and, according to Franklyn, a major impact on the health sector as nurses cry out for increased pay, better training opportunities, remuneration for degrees, better working conditions and health insurance.
    “It’s having a very large impact. Just ask Dr [Elizabeth] Ferdinand [joint coordinator of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme], just ask the Geriatric Hospital, just ask the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Government is just pretending it is business as usual but they are . . . putting people’s lives at risk, not me,” he said.
    Political maverick
    During a media conference in December, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said Franklyn, then an Opposition senator, was behaving like a “political maverick” who was only instigating unfounded strike action because it was the perceived “silly season”.
    At that conference, the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Nurses’ Association (BNA), Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, Barbados Private Sector Association, Barbados Workers’ Union and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Association of Barbados all distanced themselves from the strike action.
    An insult
    Since then, Government has held talks with the BNA, which some of the issues were addressed. However, the UWU saw this as an insult.
    Immediate past president of the BNA, Joannah Waterman, told the
    DAILY NATION yesterday it was unfortunate the striking nurses did not see that the BNA was working to the benefit of all nurses, not just those under its umbrella.
    “The same issues they are striking over we have been advocating for years. Unfortunately, successive Governments have not addressed them but this Government has started to make some headway [but] everything can’t be done overnight.
    “My stance is there is no divide over what the issues are; we are all fighting the same fight. I don’t blame the nurses for being frustrated, but they need to recognise negotiations have taken place and it will benefit them as well,” she said.
    Franklyn said the prolonged wait had been tough on his nurses but they remained determined. He added the impasse reflected badly on Government and asked if the ruling administration was willing to allow people to suffer to make a point.
    (CA)

    Source: Nation

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  • I wonder what would have happened if Mottley had ignored the garment industry when the industry big upside came begging with cup in hand for financial aid
    I ask of that question because the nurses concern have been ongoing for a long time
    Now present govt has all but refuse to give them an ear
    Here is a PM who spoke if brotherly love yet have sister marching the streets begging and pleading for govt to help
    The big corporations does none of the sort
    Uh wonder why ?

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  • Franklyn: We’re at risk of losing nurses

    By Colville Mounsey
    colvillemounsey@nationnews.com
    Head of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), Caswell Franklyn, is warning Government that each day it fails to address the ongoing strike by nurses is an increase in the risk of losing a significant portion of Barbados’ health sector human resources to overseas recruiters.
    Franklyn, who has led a more than two-monthlong strike of close to 200 nurses, said United States recruiters have asked him to be the point person for the hiring of 600 nurses from Barbados to work in that jurisdiction.
    “There is an agency outside of Barbados that has contacted me to help them to recruit nurses. I don’t understand why they chose to call me, but they did. So, while we are not utilising our nurses and treating them with such scant respect, international agencies want them because they know that Barbadian nurses have a reputation for hard work. This agency has told me that they want 600 nurses. The reality is that we do not have 600 nurses to spare. As a matter of fact, we do not have any to spare, yet we are running the risk of losing them to institutions overseas. This is a reputable agency, one that has recruited nurses from here before,” said Franklyn.
    The outspoken trade unionist said there has not been a huge uptake in terms of response to the recruitment drive, noting that thus far only five nurses have collected application forms from him. However, he said some nurses are so fed up of the “disregard for their concerns” that many of them have indicated their willingness to retire or resign rather than put up with the current arrangements at their jobs.
    “The nurses are resolved that they would not be backing down from this and many have told me that they would prefer to retire from the service rather than to return to the conditions that they have been working under all this time. I told them about the opportunity and some of them have actually asked for the information to answer the ad and, if necessary, travel on to the United States,” he explained.
    Franklyn, who is a former
    Opposition Senator, said an exodus of nurses to greener pastures was not in the best interest of his union, nor was he encouraging individuals to leave the profession at a time when health care providers were urgently needed. However, he made it clear that he would not be standing in the way of anyone who felt they needed to ply their skills in a more conducive environment.
    “I am not a nursing recruiter and it is not in my interest to get the nurses out of Barbados, but if it comes to that I will not be standing in their way and I will give them the information. This is a legitimate agency that has actually recruited in Barbados before, but so far only five persons have said yes, so at the moment there is no big clamour, but the opportunity is there. The longer this strike drags on, the more appealing this opportunity is going to be,” he said.


    Source: Nation

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