Augustine: Minimum 3-year contracts for TRHA workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


President of the TT Registered Nurses Association Idi Stuart leads protesting nurses outside the Scarborough General Hospital. FILE PHOTO –

Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) staff employed under short-term contracts will be given a bit more stability with new three-year contracts. However, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the contracts will only be offered to employees under 60 years old.

Augustine was speaking on Sunday after his Executive Council ended a five-day retreat at Rovanel’s Resort and Conference Centre, Bon Accord. The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy said his party had promised during the election campaign to treat with contract employment on the island.

“We are starting with those people who have been at the forefront of the fight against covid19. Based on assessment, we have 133 employees whose status are viewed as temporary – it could be covid19 temporary or just temporary. For these 133 workers, once you are under the age of 60, you would automatically be offered a three-year contract immediately.”

He said the preparations have begun to change their status.

“So those workers within the TRHA that are being viewed as temporary, you have a little more stability in terms of your employment status. And we are doing that because we recognise that there is a need to fix the establishment and it would take Assistant Secretary (Certica) Williams-Orr a bit longer to go through the establishment with the relevant public service boards.”

He said the staff will no longer be “languishing on three-month contracts or even one-year contracts.”

He said TRHA employees over the age of 60 will be treated on a case-by-case basis and once there is strong recommendation from the leaders in the healthcare sector, an upgrade would be considered.

“There is an existing THA policy where the THA was attempting to streamline contracts for people over the age of 60. We are looking at that and we would assess you if you’re over the age of 60.”

Augustine said contract workers throughout the THA will be looked at.

“It is endemic to THA operations – these short-term contracts that don’t make sense. We are only starting with those in the TRHA because we believe at this very moment they deserve to be the starting point. We will be going through all the divisions and all the departments.”

Augustine said assessments of other divisions are ongoing.

In May last year, president of the TT Registered Nurses Association Idi Stuart described as “unfortunate” the TRHA’s decision not to give contract nurses benefits and allowances on par with their permanent counterparts. The contract nurses, who have been working alongside staff nurses on the frontline of the covid19 pandemic for more than a year, complained they are not entitled to paid sick leave, vacation leave or maternity leave. The TRHA hired them on a short-term basis at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and retained them to augment the existing nursing staff.

At a media briefing thereafter, former health secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the contract nurses’ status will remain unchanged for the time being as the TRHA was not hiring. Davidson-Celestine said the nurses will be the first to be considered for employment at the new Roxborough Hospital, which was handed over to the TRHA.

Stuart could not be reached for comment on Sunday.