Dr Westford says risk allowance will require time but majority of issues affecting striking nurses resolved

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Two days after the Government deployed its Advisor, Dr Jennifer Westford, to meet with striking nurses and Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Dr Westford is reporting that most of the issues that forced the nurses to strike have already been resolved.

The News Room spoke to Dr Westford by phone shortly after a meeting with the interested parties on Thursday where she said that the Government is continuing its engagement with the staff, management and the union.

“All of the issues that we have been dealing with most of them were resolved… these are issues that could have been resolved on the ground but there are other issues that cannot be resolved right now,” said Dr Westford who once served as Minister of Public Service under the People’s Progressive Party Government.

Asked what those issues are, Dr Westford would only say that they were administrative.

“I don’t think I wish to say what are those issues but most are administrative issues.”

Dr Jennifer Westford

One of the major issues for the nurses is the issuance of COVID -19 risk allowance and while the Government has set aside some $150 million in the 2020 emergency budget for frontline workers, Dr Westford said the substantial issues will need time, and further negotiations before that issue is resolved.

“Risk allowance will not be resolved immediately. That is one that will have to be resolved with discussions and negotiations. That is not something that can be resolved with the snap of a finger,” she added.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday President Irfaan Ali scolded the striking nurses for breaking the law even as he promised momentous improvements on their salaries and working conditions in the next five years.

“We have a five-year agenda and while we understand the role nurses play in our country and economy, we brought a menu of measures in the 2020 emergency manner that is affordable to the economy,” the Head of State said.

President Ali, during an interview with News Source, said even as the nurses are making their demands, they must understand that there are laws and those laws have to be followed.

“We are not denying the fact that these nurses do a tremendous job but look globally at what we are seeing is… essential workers giving up allowances, and going beyond the call of duty and the question we need to ask is how do you deal with essential workers breaching the law, operating outside of the law.

“Then what is the purpose of laws if we are not going to adhere to the laws and guidelines, they are not there for fashion, it recognizes that certain services are essential in maintaining life,” the President said.

The President gave no commitment to risk allowance but pointed out that under the $150 million, frontline workers at the Georgetown Public hospitals have begun to receive their allowances.

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