The A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) says that given the COVID-19 pandemic, now is not the time for the government to have a dispute with frontline workers.

The main Parliamentary Opposition’s comment comes at a time when some nurses have opted to protest, calling for more incentives and better wages. This morning, several nurses picketed the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

The APNU+AFC said that comments made by the Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall that industrial actions taken by nurses are in contravention to laws, are “abhorrent and disgusting”.

Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall

Nandlall, last week, wrote the Head of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Patrick Yarde, warning him about the consequences of “illegal” industrial actions. He said that these actions can result in termination of services and criminal charge.

Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Patrick Yarde

The AG stated that the Essential Services Arbitration Act Chapter 54:01 provides for settlement of disputes in public utility undertakings and in certain services and prohibits strikes and lockouts in such undertakings or services.

He explained that it is cruel and inhumane to take industrial action when the country and the world are facing a global pandemic.

“Citizens may die as a result of the GPSU’s actions,” the Attorney-General told Yarde.

But the Coalition disagrees, saying that industrial action is a lawful option available to all workers. The party said that Nandlall is “misinformed and “disingenuous”.

The APNU+AFC went on to state that these actions taken by frontline workers are not unique to Guyana, but a part of a global push by healthcare professionals for better pay amidst a raging pandemic.

“The APNU+AFC Coalition brings to the attention of the nation that health care workers across the world have been demanding better pay, allowances and working conditions since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Workers in numerous countries have threatened to and have actually gone on strike when their demands were not met. These include in England, Israel, United States and Hong Kong among others,” the Coalition said.

The Coalition is demanding that the PPP regime show “compassion, care and consideration and engage with the health care workers, understand their needs and provide an acceptable risk allowance, better salaries and improved conditions of work”.

It further stated that to bring criminal charges against health care workers and terminate their contracts at this time, is to jeopardize the health and lives of the Guyanese people and may very well constitute criminal conduct on the part of Nandlall and the PPP regime.

“This is not a time to go to war with the nation’s nurses and doctors and health care workers. This is a time to embrace them, treat them with respect, appreciate and recognize their value towards the health and wellbeing of the nation and reward them for their heroic work over these past months as the APNU+AFC Coalition was actively planning to do prior to leaving government,” the party said.


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