MONTEGO BAY, St James — Government-paid medical technologists are expected to take a stance against the Union of Technical Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP) on Monday afternoon.
According to Donaldo Montaque, a senior medical technologist at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), the professionals will be staging an islandwide go-slow to express their disgruntlement with UTASP over its handling of the recent compensation review package.
Montaque told the Jamaica Observer that their troubles started last year after a decision was made to not accept the Government's proposed package without reportedly consulting the medical technologists.
"They decided not to accept the agreement which the Government was offering before the compensation package was thrown out to everybody. So this idea of not signing is not new to us. They decided that they were not going to sign from last year," he said.
Montaque further noted that he, along with his colleagues, were satisfied after seeing the proposed increase being given out by the Government. Before the reclassification, the salary for a medical technologist 1 is between $1,146,743 and $1,363,117 per annum. The yearly salary for those classified as medical technologist 2 starts at $1,290,712 and ends at $1,534,252.
"Counting down to March 31, which was the deadline, people were clamouring to the chief delegate to sign the compensation package. As a matter of fact, the compensation package wasn't given to the members of the union by the chief delegate. So we wouldn't know exactly how beneficial this compensation review package would be to us, but when this new document was passed around we were excited and ready to sign," Montaque explained.
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 as of April 1, 2023. At the same time, senior medical technologists would be looking at a minimum of $3,477,245 — a major jump from their usual $1,290,712.
Montaque described that increase as "welcome".
"It was very clear, based on the projections they made, that the people at the bottom, which are junior medical technologists, would have benefited greatly from this new reclassification. Some were expecting increases of over 150 per cent, but they decided that they weren't going to take the offer. The only disadvantage was for people at the top who would probably lose concession and some travelling, that were the only anomalies at that point," Montaque told the Sunday Observer.
Additionally, Montaque explained that medical technologists were left feeling cheated after an election which was held by Franklyn Whyte, the chief delegate of UTASP. The senior medical technologist stated that the election was carried out unfairly, as people outside of their profession were included in the counting of the votes.
He told the Sunday Observer that those in support of the compensation package were asked to raise a hand; however, they were overpowered by the laboratory technical assistants whose hands were not raised.
"That was botched because it was run at National Public Heath Laboratory where the chief delegate is from. It is common knowledge that they did not want to sign and they were in control. The issue arose because laboratory technical assistants were among the population and they have already got their package because some of them have a different union, which is the National Workers Union. So they would have bargained and got their increase. It was disingenuous for them to be a part of the meeting, and their say was acknowledged to stop the medical technologists from getting their new salaries, Montaque bemoaned.
Pointing out that their qualms were not with the Government, Montaque is seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Minister of Finance and Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, and Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.
"Our issue is not with the Government of Jamaica because the majority of the medical technologists are very appreciative of the compensative review. It has never been seen in Jamaica before where so many salaries have doubled. We would have gladly taken this package if we could have gone to the Ministry of Finance and signed for it," said Montaque.
"We want the minister of finance, the minister of health, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Union to come out and give us some support as we try to battle against the chief delegate Franklyn Whyte and the UTASP. Help the medical technologists on the island get a liveable wage. We want to get our salaries so that we can match the current inflation rates," the senior medical technologist appealed.
"Mr Whyte wants to make it seem like we are on a hunger strike, but we are not, because it is being forced on us. We want our money, but the union is being run as a dictatorship," Montaque added.
Monday's plans for a go-slow by the medical technologists are expected to be carried out across 10 public hospitals. Montaque stated that they have all agreed to wear black as they stand in solidarity against the decision said to be taken by UTASP. The decision to stage this peaceful protest, he explained, came after recognising that their petitions and appeals have been falling on deaf ears.
Montague said that these petitions have been signed by over 80 medical technologists across the island's four health regions.