The president of the Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU), Dr. Melisande Bassett, has given notice that the union intends to seek a strike vote on outstanding issues facing doctors even as the government moved to end a strike by medical practitioners by filing the matter with the Industrial Tribunal.
Bassett, speaking at a news conference here, said that while the government may have won the first battle, the war is still ongoing.
She told reporters there are several other outstanding matters that the doctors will pursue, including the reported removal of intern housing and allowances, insisting that the BDU’s concerns have not been sufficiently heard or addressed in the last several days.
“We have been denied the legal right to exercise our right to industrial action because we have not been able to have conversations,” she said.
“Now of course, we have been seeking advice from all across as to what is our next step. Today, we want to let you know that this may be a small battle that seemingly they have won, but the war is still being waged and we will not stop.”
Labour Minister Dion A. Foulke says he has referred the strike by doctors to the Industrial Tribunal saying the dispute “has affected and threatened the public interest”.
“I have, therefore, referred the dispute, which has given rise to the strike action, to the Industrial Tribunal,” Foulke said in a brief statement, adding that In accordance with the Industrial Relations Act “all parties to the dispute have been notified in writing”.
Under the legislation, once the matter is referred to the tribunal it is the “duty of any person participating in the strike or lock-out to discontinue the same forthwith” until the panel makes a ruling.
Last week, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) said that it had reduced its services to “emergencies only” adding it “deeply regrets the impact of this action on the provision of care to the Bahamian people”.
t said that services had been affected at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC), Rand Memorial Hospital and the Grand Bahama Community Clinics.
Last Wednesday, an estimated 420 doctors on New Providence and Grand Bahama withdrew their services over holiday pay.
“One thing that the minister has failed to realize is that we have four other matters that they did not attend at the industrial tribunal. Trade disputes have already been filed and we will call for a strike vote on all of them,” Bassett said.
In a statement on Monday, the BDU said that in its effort towards conciliation, it conceded six years of holiday pay in excess of US$10 million.
“BDU realised the financial burden this posed on the public purse and made numerous concessions: during negotiations this money payout was reduced to less than half; BDU waived all interest to the monies owed; BDU gave the government options for non-monetary alternatives for payment which included construction of a parking garage, improved insurance or one-time tax waivers.
“We viewed these non-monetary concessions as innovative and certainly a possible means for negotiating with other unions who are owed monies. The release of BDU’s options for non-monetary compensation by PHA and Department of Public Health without providing the context is a lack of good faith,” the union said in its statement.