GUYANA: GPSU threatens strike action by health workers from October 7th. 2020

– cites ultimata going all the way back to January 2019

More than a year after its executive council mandated industrial action in the Health Sector, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has delivered yet another ultimatum to the Minister of Health.

Patrick Yarde

Patrick Yarde

This time the union has said that it would authorize strike action from Wednesday, October 7 if the Minister fails to provide a “positive response” to its demands.

“We will mobilize for full strike actions, if within 72 hours we do not get what we consider as a positive response, to mature and professional decisions focused on an outcome in resolving this matter,” GPSU President Patrick Yarde told a press conference today. Despite repeated requests he refused to state what “a positive response” would entail.       

Over the last two weeks Healthcare workers across the country have been protesting for better working conditions and better remuneration. In response, government through the Ministry of Public Service and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) has accused these workers of engaging in “illegal” and “illegitimate” action before “exhausting proper industrial relations practices and procedures” set out in the Public Utility Undertakings and Public Health Services Act.

Yarde however was adamant that the workers’ actions were legitimate as his union had “served notice on government in excess of one month” as required by the regulation.

“These protest actions are expressions of displeasure at the behaviour of the Administration, with the consistent flouting of agreements and the failure to resolve grievances that were not only repeatedly brought to the management’s attention by the GPSU on behalf of the aggrieved frontline workers, but were accepted as being critical by said management,” he stressed.

Yarde shared with media a letter written to Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony on September 30, 2020 in which the union reminded that it had approached both the Ministry and the Management of the GPHC about sub-standard working conditions over a period of years.

The letter notes that on January 24, 2019 an ultimatum was issued and that another letter dated August 28, 2019 had reminded that the “ultimatum was still in force”.

The ultimatum in question as reported by Stabroek News was a mandate from its Executive Council that “industrial action [in the Health Sector] be taken from February 28th or anytime thereafter.”

The industrial action had been expected to protest the working conditions and other ill-treatment of health care workers and technicians in the public service, public sector and at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

The Executive Council’s decision had been sent as an ultimatum to the Ministry of Public Health.

The original ultimatum followed efforts to discuss these issues with then Minister within the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Karen Cummings and Chief Executive Officer of GPHC Brigadier (Ret’d) George Lewis. For years they remained unaddressed.

In response to the union’s ultimatum of January 24th, a ministry representative, met with the GPSU on January 31st and agreed to the formation of two committees comprising representative from both sides.  Despite these promises, meetings of the committees ceased after an initial February 13th meeting.

Yarde stressed today that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already bad situation and created “an enormous and extraordinary challenge to health care workers”.

He reminded that several workers have been infected and hospitalized and at least two have died: a Doctor and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

The union stressed that all workers particularly those at GPHC, exposed to dealing with the public and must be categorized as front line workers and claimed that these infections have occurred because of deficiencies in the way the pandemic is being handled.

“It has become necessary for these frontline workers to incur significant expenses to protect themselves and their families from being infected by this deadly virus, because of the callous disregard of uncaring employers,” the union noted.

Vice President Dawn Gardener explained that during a visit to the West Demerara Hospital she was informed that more than a dozen staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 and following a brief quarantine (nine days) were asked to return to work.

“They asked for another test and were told no so many are saying they won’t go back,” Gardner revealed.

Other concerns include that nurses are asked to reuse disposable masks and to take home their gowns to wash and reuse.

“These ludicrous requests are occupational health and safety hazards, which create safety challenges for healthcare personnel and their households,” the union stressed.

According to Yarde, GPSU is particularly peeved that other sectors such as the sugar industry have received a significant injection of revenue when the health sector’s request are being downplayed.

“In this environment of improved revenues, the GPSU expects that no excuses should deter fulfillment and realization of Governments obligation to provide a living wage to the public sector,” he stressed.  

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  • kamtanblog  On 10/02/2020 at 2:06 am

    Some UK health workers took sick leave
    of absence ! On health and safety grounds.
    Was it justified ? Were they “high risk” caters ?
    Health workers risk their lives daily to save
    lives ….NHS must provide the neccessary tools
    of trade in order to protect them from infection.

    Not looking good for Guyana’s future development. Way backward !
    Minister of health wanted job now
    probably wish he did not take it.


  • Winston  On 10/02/2020 at 8:59 am

    This is a golden opportunity for the health care workers and one that must not be missed. What will the government do if they strike? Absolutely nothing!!! They cannot fire nor imprison all of these health care workers as there will be nobody left to administer health care to the sick. The government playing politics with people’s lives. Money should not be available for projects that favour PPP supporters only…i.e. reopening that dead sugar estate. Health care workers have to fight for their rights anyway they can.

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/02/2020 at 12:26 pm

      For anyone who doesn’t understand Winston’s comment:

      Take a walk in any public hospital or government office and you would find that this is way more than a PPP-PNC issue. Where in the world would a government use ‘socialist’ policies to revive dead factories and create jobs for the uneducated and unskilled, while the educated have to be denied their fair share of pay? The same PPP supporters who are encouraging us to invade ‘socialist’ Venezuela on behalf of Trump, because the PPP has a debt to pay to America.

      • Voice of Reason  On 10/02/2020 at 9:59 pm

        The debt owed to America is not by the PPP it’s by Jagdeo. It’s a quid pro quo. Has anyone ever thought about how Roger Khan, a notorious drug dealer, among other heinous crimes, wanted so badly by America, only ends up spending10 years in prison when the real jail time should have been at least 25 years? The long and short of it is that America will have its way in Guyana and Jagdeo will avoid a worst fate than Roger Khan.

      • Dennis Albert  On 10/02/2020 at 11:05 pm

        America claimed during the trial that they didn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute anyone for what they did in Guyana. Roger Khan was only jailed for the conspiracies in the America state of New York, and a gun charge in Vermont.

  • Voice of Reason  On 10/03/2020 at 10:05 am

    And Jagdeo was part and parcel of those conspiracies in the America State of New York. Some information is best kept under wraps and used to achieve an end game. Either way they have him by the short and curlies and he has no choice but to play ball.

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/03/2020 at 11:30 am

      Jagdeo should tie his boots lace and fight Venezuela himself. He is not going to use Afro-Guyanese and mixed race Guyanese to do his bidding. If Guyana wants to be part of the future of the South American region, they shouldn’t antagonise countries. I don’t want the population to skyrocket to 5,000,000 overnight because Trump nuked Caracas from Matthew’s Ridge.

      • kamtanblog  On 10/03/2020 at 11:42 am

        WW3 will be fought by robots and robotic
        drones with mini nukes ! USA don’t give a rats arse of radioactive fallout hitting Guyana
        South America or carribean. All non white
        nation states.
        One blessing
        Exon is USA therefore will be protected
        by USA mighty military.
        Jackals will be despatched to Caracas before
        military invasion.

        Please this is all “speculation” as no one
        really knows how things will pan out after
        Nov 3rd.

        Will idiot in chief be sworn in on 1st jan 2021

        Not long now !

      • kamtanblog  On 10/03/2020 at 11:47 am

        1st January 2021 is a Friday !
        Will there be a new CIC Potus sworn in ?
        Or will CorV survivor be given second term.?

      • Dennis Albert  On 10/03/2020 at 1:58 pm

        A lot of PPP voters who keep on parroting Granger this, Granger that fail to realise that the US acts strategically.
        Trump WILL GET the military to conduct a military exercise against Venezuela, or to provoke Iran which is highly unlikely because Iran, Russia and China combined have nukes that are capable of turning NYC into ashes. Venezuela is the low-hanging fruit of the distraction of Trump losing.

  • Dennis Albert  On 10/03/2020 at 2:00 pm

    Protests are part of a democratic country. The comments allege that Granger paid the nurses to protest using a trust fund from the late Burnham located in an offshore Swiss bank account that is jointly owned with Bharrat Jagdeo.

    • Curtis  On 10/03/2020 at 6:15 pm

      I find it very interesting that the government has chosen to employ the military in addition to the police force to what they say is to monitor that the citizens are adhering to the protocol of mask wearing during the curfew hours. I say interesting because of the October 7th date that the nurses are planning to strike. I hope the govt is not planning to use this force on these striking Guyanese nurses. Under the circumstances they have every right to ask for an increase in their pay and the govt, if it has any integrity, would acknowledge the crucial role that these workers are playing during this Covid pandemic and increase their pay. They’re busy hustling to open up the country more to sustain the livelihood of their supporters who are the store owners and market vendors, not so much to save lives but in the meantime whose lives are being put on the line each and every day?…….THE HEALTH CARE WORKERS!!!!

      • Brother Man  On 10/03/2020 at 6:32 pm

        How are you, Trevor?

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