Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Letter sent by Chief Minister Peter Caruana to all Nurses

Dear Nursing staff member,

During the last few weeks a number of statements have been made on behalf of the Nursing Section Committee falsely attributing to me certain actions, attitudes and intentions in relation to nursing issues. I have not so far responded.

In a statement issued on 2nd February 2005 the outgoing Committee says that Convent Place (that is the Chief Minister) is employing “bullying tactics” against nursing staff and their interests. I cannot allow this extraordinary and false remark to go unanswered.

The Committee’s latest statement also suggests that the “odds” are stacked against nursing staff, that GHA management is taking advantage of the alleged divide between Transport House officials and its shop stewards, and that Government is trying to “undermine” the Nursing Section Committee. All of these statements are totally untrue, and I believe are intended to inflame nursing staff at this critical moment for the GHA as it prepares to move to the new hospital.

I am writing separately to each member of the nursing staff of the GHA to rebut the allegation that I, or any member of the Government or of my staff at No. 6 Convent Place, are employing bullying tactics in relation to nurses or any other staff member, or that they are doing any of the other things that are alleged. I will set out the facts and let you be the judge of whether they constitute “bullying”.

Nursing Assistants

In March 2003 the Union submitted a claim for the re-grading of Nursing Assistants to Grade B. Inspite of the difficulty of reconciling this claim with the applicable parity analogues, the Government bent over backwards to meet the claim in October 2003.

Enrolled Nurses and Senior Enrolled Nurses

In March 2004 the Union claimed on behalf of Enrolled Nurses that they be allowed to progress to the end of their pay scale, despite a local agreement in 1989 to the contrary. On behalf of Senior Enrolled Nurses, the Union resurrected the rejected 1999 claim that pay differentials with Staff Nurses be restored.

On 7th December 2004, and despite the difficulty in reconciling the EN and SEN claims with the parity analogue, the Government agreed to meet these claims with effect from 1st November 2004. The only issue that remains outstanding in respect of these two claims is the claim to retrospection back to March 2004 in the case of Enrolled Nurses, and 1999 in the case of Senior Enrolled Nurses.

At the TGWU/ACTS Christmas party at Latinos in Casemates, members of the Nursing Section Committee raised with me the issue of retrospection for Enrolled Nurses and Senior Enrolled Nurses. They said that they wanted a meeting with me to discuss it and asked whether I would meet with them. I said that I would. No meeting has been sought with my office by the Nursing Committee since then on that issue.

Charge Nurses

The Union also claimed additional pay points for Charge Nurses. In respect of this Claim the GHA informed the Union that they had not substantiated the claim and invited the Union to do so. Negotiations continue in relation to that claim.

On-Going Negotiations

All the outstanding issues remain under negotiation between GOG/GHA and the Union. These include the issue of retrospection relating to the Enrolled Nurses and Senior Enrolled Nurses claim and the Geriatric Allowance claim for Ward Nurses (which was also settled in September 2004), and also a claim relating to Responsibility Allowance.

At all times the Government and GHA have made it clear that we are willing to negotiate a settlement of all these issues, including the retrospection claims, but that those negotiations should not be linked to the move to the new hospital, because they were unrelated to that important issue. Government did not feel it fair to be expected to negotiate with a pistol to its head. This remains the Government’s position, and indeed negotiations are presently taking place. The Union has also raised a number of issues affecting GHA staff that do arise from the move to the new hospital. All these are being negotiated and settled in the context of the move.

Transfer of Staff to Mount Alvernia/Nurse – Patient ratios

The Nursing Section raised a concern about nursing staff being moved up to Mount Alvernia to staff the new beds there. The Government is not obliging any GHA nursing staff member to move to Mt Alvernia.

The union then sought an assurance from Government that nurse to bed ratios at the new hospital would be maintained. The Government has assured the Union and staff, privately and publicly, that not only will the ratio be maintained, in fact it is being increased.

Civil Service/Authority Status

The Committee’s statement also refers to issues relating to Authority status for staff. No negotiations have taken place with me or anyone else in relation to that issue, nor will they unless the staff and the union is happy for them to take place in the future. This has absolutely nothing to do with the move to the new hospital where you will retain your present civil service status and conditions of employment.
Given all the above, I believe that Government has at all times been respectful and sympathetic to nursing staff interest and claims. In the circumstances that I describe in this letter I do not see how it can fairly be said that “No. 6 is using bullying tactics” or “stacking the odds” against nurses.

All that we have asked is that claims that have nothing to do with the move to the new hospital should not be linked with the move to the new hospital. In other words that the Government should not be subjected to “bullying tactics”.

At a meeting on Friday 28th January, a member of GHA management made a remark about all the unrelated claims being negotiated as a package and also about no more claims being submitted within 12 months.

This issue was raised with me on Saturday 29th by a Union official and I made it clear that this does not represent Government policy and is not the position. The Nursing Committee spokesman knew this before he made the “bullying tactics” allegation.


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