Where is our money?
Three months after voicing displeasure at the manner in which the Union of Technical Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP) handled their compensation review package, government-paid medical technologists are still awaiting payment.
And according to Donaldo Montaque, a senior medical technologist at Cornwall Regional Hospital, the professionals are “severely disappointed, demoralised and demotivated” as they head into the Christmas season “struggling” to stay afloat.
Montaque explained that the medical technologists were relieved after the union signed the wage agreement earlier in September. However, that feeling was short-lived as they still were not in receipt of the anticipated payments during that pay cycle.
He told the Jamaica Observer that correspondence from the Ministry of Health and Wellness indicated that provisions would have been made to hand these monies over to the medical technologists, but their union told them otherwise.
“We made an initiation to sign on September 5. We could have got payments in September based on the fact that several groups got payment within the month because the ministry made provisions to do a multi-payment. They paid the salary and gave the other payments during the month. However, UTASP were the ones doing the signing and they said that the payment agreement was made for October,” said Montaque.
“October 25th came and still no payment was made to the medical technologists, so we said, in the worst-case scenario, we will get it in November, but up to now we are still waiting on payment. We gave them two months and still no payment,” the senior medical technologist complained.
As the countdown to Christmas begins, Montaque told the Sunday Observer that the professionals were growing weary and anxious as they wish to enjoy the festive season with their families. However, with the current salary of approximately $95,000 per month before taxes for a junior medical technologist and $120,000 monthly for senior professionals, Montaque said the festive season isn’t proving to be a joyous time.
“The med techs are disgruntled, based on the fact that another Yuletide season is coming around and the prices for everything have gone up and all the other people within the hospital have got their salary increases. Med techs are still grappling with the effects of…the prices of goods and services going up, so we are still suffering based on the economic times,” Montaque said.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Observer indicated that with the compensation review, the minimum salary for a junior medical technologist would increase from $1,146,743 to $2,998,418 per annum as of April 1, 2023. At the same time, senior medical technologists would be looking at a minimum of $3,477,245 â€” a major jump from their usual $1,290,712 a year.
That was welcomed by the professionals.
In the meantime, Montaque told the Sunday Observer that the medical technologists received word from UTASP’s chief delegate Franklyn Whyte that their payments were being delayed due to the health ministry awaiting the costing from the South Eastern Regional Health Authority (SERHA).
Noting that the documents containing their costing were already sent to the health ministry by Western Regional Health Authority, Montaque described the wait as “unbearable”.
“Some people have taken out loans to help through the hardship, so the retroactive payment that should be received will have to go back to paying for monies that were borrowed,” Montaque said.
“Going into the Yuletide season, people want to get gifts for their families and have a proper Christmas dinner, but there is no certainty that the payments will be made. There is no certainty or guarantee that the payments will be made even after we had a strike in September,” he added.
When contacted by the Sunday Observer, UTASP General Secretary St Patrice Ennis reiterated that all health regions, except SERHA and University Hospital of the West Indies, had produced their costing to the health ministry as requested.
“And they need that, the costing for the individual med techs, from the respective regions so that they could forward that to the relevant unit at the Ministry of Finance for the payment of monies to be handed over to the Ministry of Health,” said Ennis.
“All the other regions, including those med techs employed by the Ministry of Health directly, have gone in and it is the intention to make payment on the 15th of December,” Ennis added.
As it relates to the medical technologists employed in the other regions, Ennis told the Sunday Observer that there was no guarantee that they would be paid at that time.
“The ministry, as I understood it, wanted to make payment to everybody at the same time, but that is not what was done, historically, so we asked that the payment be made to those whose costing have already been submitted,” said Ennis.
Efforts to obtain a comment from chief delegate Whyte were unsuccessful. However, a Sunday Observer source shared that he stepped down from his position on Friday through a WhatsApp message.
“It’s not lost on me; the level of dissatisfaction and disappointment with my handling of recent wage negotiations, neither have I forgotten the commitment I have made concomitant to the signing of the contracts. Therefore, effective December 1, 2023, I will relinquish the position of chief delegate, leaving the way clear for a candidate of your choosing. Thank you for the confidence you placed in me in the past and Godspeed,” Whyte reportedly said.
Ennis confirmed that the union is now without a chief delegate.