As nurses continue to negotiate for long-outstanding benefits and a new contract, Soria Dupie-Winston, the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association, reports that she is pleased with the discussions – in spite of some discord over at least one issue.
Dupie-Winston says that, for now, the negotiations are progressing smoothly.
Before the current discussions, she notes that the last set of meetings took place in the last quarter of 2022. She says the membership was becoming quite disturbed that nothing was being said about a proposal that had been sent for approval since 2017.
According to the president, letters were written to the Minister of Health and the Chief Establishment Officer to determine whether the nurses’ concerns were being addressed, with a warning that action could be taken.
However, since then, a new board for the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre has been put in place and the new executive has reached out to the nurses, Dupie-Winston says.
At least two meetings have been held, and negotiations have resumed with both the hospital’s board and the Government’s negotiations team. But the Nurses Association president says there is still a stalemate as it relates to the proposed salary increase.
Once the meeting resumes with the Government’s negotiating team, she assures, this will be discussed at length.
Dupie-Winston says there are other issues and areas of the contract in which there has been some agreement. Accordingly, she is hoping that the parties will be able to finalize the outstanding issues and complete this negotiation period, as she looks forward to the next.
The Association reportedly has given the Government and the hospital’s negotiation team certain deadlines, since the negotiations already have been drawn out for too long.
According to Dupie-Winston, so far, the nurses have been seeing some progress with regard to those deadlines being met.
The Government and the nurses have been negotiating for about two weeks now, following hints that the healthcare professionals – classified as essential workers – were planning to take some type of industrial action.
Nurses had begun an apparent go-slow, with some calling in sick, leaving a smaller-than-normal staff complement to man the respective shifts at the hospital.