Minister of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran on Wednesday told the National Assembly that gratuity payments for Linden nurses were being handled even as the nurses continued strike action started earlier in the day with a picket outside Parliament Building .
The matter was raised by APNU’s Region 10 representative Vanessa Kissoon who had sought an adjournment of the House to discuss the issue under the heading of Urgent Matter of Public Importance.
However, Speaker Raphael Trotman said her submission did not qualify as such under the Standing Orders but he allowed her two minutes to state her case in keeping with a practice started by his predecessor.
“This is a simple administrative matter that is being handled. The Permanent Secretary is doing a very good job to get that done. As Ms. Kissoon pointed out they were promised a certain time, I do not know exactly which hour they were promised but the Ministry of Health is regretful of this,” Dr. Ramsaran said.
“This will be done as a simple administrative matter between the employer and employee and it does not deserve the attention of something of national significance although we do empathise with nurses, they need their monies,” headed.
Kissoon noted that she had raised the issue last Friday in the House and had even spoken to the minister who had promised that the monies would be paid by Tuesday.
“At the moment as we speak they have not received their gratuity. The nurses are asking that the conditions that they are paid gratuity needs to be revised since gratuity is in lieu of pension,” the APNU MP said.
She added that she was told the payments would be made by 4PM Wednesday but concerns remained about the gratuity payment process.
“The nurses are still concerned and so they wanted this matter resolved and the manner in which payment of gratuity to be dealt with once and for all because every year we’re having this problem,” Kissoon said.
Dr. Ramsaran said the non-payment was an “administrative glitch” while adding that steps would be taken to reprimand those who may be at fault and to ensure the problem did not recur.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Trevor Thomas had Demerara Waves earlier that the authorities had not received any notice of strike action and denied that the government deliberately decided not to pay the workers their emoluments.
“What is a fact is that the Ministry didn’t take a decision not to pay them the gratuities,” he said.
He attributed the delay in payment to administrative hiccups apparently due to a change in supervisory staff. Thomas added that the Health Ministry only became aware of the issue in late March close to the Easter holiday weekend.
About 80 workers were on industrial action.