Even as the Health Ministry probes why almost 80 staff members of the Linden Hospital Complex were not paid their gratuities, the workers on Wednesday went on strike after negotiations failed for them to get the much needed cash in time for the new school term.
Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Trevor Thomas said the authorities have not received any notice of strike action. He denied that government deliberately decided not to pay the workers their emoluments. “What is a fact is that the Ministry didnt take a decision not to pay them the gratuities,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
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 late March closer to the Easter holiday weekend.
“Apparently, there were some supervisors who were to do it (but) they didn’t do it. Let me hasten to say that they deliberately didn’t do it but they might have had some changes in supervisory staff and we are still investigating this matter to see what was responsible,” he said.
Thomas said it was not easy to simply prepare another pay-sheet before the next pay day.He assured that representatives of the Ministry of Health, Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Ministry of Finance were making every effort to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the aggrieved workers.
“They made some mistakes but the workers must suffer. They must find some kind of money and give the workers before payday,” said Chairman of the Guyana Public Service Union’s (GPSU) branch there, Winston Luke.
He said the estimated 75 workers should have been paid a total of GUY$6 million with salaries for March, but Health Ministry officials have told them that they only have GUY$1 million to split up among the most needed.
Luke accused the Health Ministry of breaking last Friday’s promise to provide at least GUY$3 million by Tuesday midday, prompting the workers to go on strike. He said government appeared to be stalling and bent on paying the gratuity with salaries for April.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary, however, denied that any such promises were made to the workers. At the same time, he said the GPSU has not responded to an offer by the Health Ministry to provide advances to workers who might be in a “financial bind.”
The gratuity- 22.5 percent of the basic salary is paid every six months- but the union official said that for unknown reasons the government has been cutting of gratuities for maternity leave or sick leave that is over 28 days.
Skeleton staff is available for emergencies, he said. A number of the workers are employed directly by the Ministry of Health.