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Health workers restive over missing salary deductions

Tuesday, May 13, 2014    

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TRADE unions representing more than 3,000 workers employed by the Government's South East Regional Health Authority (SEHRA) are coming under increasing pressure from members to have their salary deduction issues sorted out.

General secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers, Helene Davis Whyte, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that members of her union are growing increasingly angry over the delay.

She said that the Ministry of Finance and Planning not only missed a deadline to respond to the workers' complaints by last Tuesday, but has not responded since the meeting at the ministry on May 2.

"What we want is a plan of action as to how they plan to deal with the issues," she said.

The workers, including registered and enrolled nurses, midwives, public health inspectors, technologists, attendants and health records administrators, are complaining that money deducted from their salaries are not being paid over to their creditors. These creditors include mortgagors and car dealers, and the say they are being hounded by bailiffs and bill collectors threatening them with seizure of their property.

The Government has acknowledged that reduced allocations to SERHA, due to the tight budget, has been affecting the authority's ability to meet its financial commitments, leaving the authority to dip into employees' salary deductions to meet some of its costs.

Yesterday, Davis Whyte said that the matter has been a problem for more than two years, but had worsened recently. She said that the unions have documentation of workers penalised for failing to pay their loans on time.

She said that SERHA informed the unions that it has been meeting with some of the banks to seek to reduce the tension. However, she pointed out that there were also problems with microfinance agencies and credit unions, which are less able to tolerate the delays.

"The workers are not prepared to wait much longer, and I expect the issues to be settled within the next couple of weeks. I am sure the workers will start meeting to decide a course of action," she said.

The largest regional health authority in Jamaica, SERHA is responsible for the delivery of health care services to the residents of St Catherine, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew, representing 47 per cent of the population of Jamaica. The authority employs more than 6,000 health care workers to deliver health services through a network of 10 hospitals and 89 health centres.

-- Balford Henry

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