Friday, February 18, 2005

Nurses challenge district officer to meet them

As the heated ding-dong between the TGWU/ACTS and its ‘temporary’ nursing section committee continued it emerged that Luis Montiel, the union’s District Officer, was hospitalised on Wednesday night apparently suffering from chest pains.

The lapse comes in the wake of medical treatment that Mr Montiel has been undergoing over the last year and at the peak of industrial unrest on the Rock. Responding to official union statements that accused the nursing committee of suffering from “infantile disorder” the nurses accused Mr Montiel of being vindictive and still failing to explain why he has not chosen to speak directly to his members. They have now called a meeting for this Monday at 1.30 pm at Transport House and are asking Mr Montiel to address off-duty nurses.

To the accusation that the nurses had tried to stop the hospital transfer the committee points to an official union letter which Charles Sisarello wrote in December to Ernest Britto, Health Minister, saying that unless the nurses were fully informed of the move they would refuse to carry it out. This threat, they say, was in relation to the grievances with the GHA but, say the nurses, “we do not label Mr Montiel as infantile or irresponsible.”

For the nurses the District Officer’s position is “hypocritical and confusing, but more worryingly playing into the strategy of the employer in undermining trade union organisation in the GHA.”
They accuse Mr Montiel of failing to see that their talk of withdrawal of co-operation on the move was because they objected to being used as “labourers/ domestics” at what they felt was the expense of valuable nursing duties –“an action that a union man would understand.”

The nurses also criticised the decision to delay Saturday’s move until uniforms were worn and said that the decision had been taken outside the GHA and that previous Directors of Nursing Services had requested the uniforms not be worn in escorting patients outside the hospital.

“We realised the dangers for patients in the decision to delay the move and asked our members to use their uniforms as requested by Management in the transfer of patients, because, unlike the feeble excuse of hygiene, the ‘cunning plan’ was to portray the nurses in the community as selfish villains, and, in the process, drive a wedge between the nurses and their representatives,” said the Committee.

The Committee rejects portrayal of the decisions as a weakness and says it will not be bullied nor its grass roots unity undermined.
Declaring their action a success the nurses remind Mr Montiel that he is paid to represent them. They say the action has inspired more nurses to join the union.

Meanwhile the nurses accuse the District Officer of shifting his position being economical with the truth in relation to contract workers – a dispute he reported had been resolved last Friday.

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