By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) remains on a go-slow after workers announced that starting Friday certain services would be cut back indefinitely as workers demonstrate to receive the same kind of salary increase given to public officers over the last two years.
Since the KHMH is a statutory body and the workers are not collectively unionized the workers do not qualify as part of the Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) agreed upon by the Government, the Public Service Union (PSU), the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) in 2013. The workers, however, believe they are entitled to the same kind of consideration being the operators of the nation’s only referral hospital.
KHMH Board of Governors Chair Chandra Cansino reportedly made an appeal to Cabinet last week but government responded that the workers would need to form a union and a bargaining unit to negotiate a CBA.
Since Friday the clinics have been closed and no elective surgeries are being performed except for urgent and emergency cases. Emergency care remains uninterrupted and the day to day running of the wards continue as well.
Ministry of Health Chief Executive Officer Peter Allen told the media on Friday that he was not aware that a go-slow had been in effect and said he would look into the matter as soon as possible to see if negotiations could be started to have the problem resolved. The Reporter tried contacting Allen for an update but was unable to reach him.
The Reporter has also been informed that, of the almost 600 KHMH workers demanding a raise, about 60 of them belong to the PSU and feel that the union has dropped the ball in terms of negotiating on their behalf. Those members have reportedly left the PSU. The Reporter made an attempt to contact PSU President Marvin Blades for confirmation but he was also unavailable.
KHMH workers were given a similar salary increase in 2005. According to a credible source with knowledge of the original arrangement when the hospital was transitioned from under the Ministry’s control to a statutory body, workers, who were all public officers at the time, were promised by the Board of Governors that they would be no worse off under the new structure than if they remained public officers, to encourage them to sign on.