(St. Lucia News Online) — An online campaign is underway aimed at petitioning the Saint Lucian government to end sessional contracts for nurses and give them more stable employment.
A sessional contract is a type of part-time contract where someone is employed to deliver on a term or seasonal-only basis. These contracts usually carry little or no benefits and avoid creating a continuous contract of employment.
The petition on change.org, entitled ‘An appeal to the Government of St Lucia to remove all Nurses on sessional contracts,’ was started about one week ago. It has garnered over 2,000 signatures, to date, with a goal to acquire 2,500 signatures.
The petition states that the Saint Lucia government has been forced to seek the assistance of over 100 nurses and doctors from Cuba due to a shortage of local human resources amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Cubans are welcomed “with open arms”, the petition states that local nurses deserve better treatment. And better treatment does not mean short-term contracts.
“Many Saint Lucian nurses are hired on sessional contracts. Some of these contracts are as low as 3 months which means the nurse would be signing one every 3 months,” the petition states.
“Some nurses have been on these contracts for years now. These contracts have no benefits, no uniform allowance, no vacation with pay, no overtime pay, and so on. These nurses get paid by cheque and never get paid on time so salary for March will be received mid-April if they are lucky.”
Banks won’t give loans to nurses on short-term contracts, the petition argues.
However, these nurses continue to work “silently enduring this due to fear of non-renewal of contracts and victimisation”.
“There is lack of stability and nurses feel demotivated,” the petition further states. “However, many of these nurses are currently putting their life on the line to save Saint Lucia. We need better for our nurses. Please help by signing this petition to put an end to sessional contracts for our nurses.”
The Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA) has spoken out against a similar issue regarding local nurses, particularly those who have transitioned or are being transitioned from other local medical institutions to the Owen King European Union (OKEU) Hospital.
The CSA believes the nurses should be “absorbed into OKEU as full-time employees and not on contract.
In a recent release, CSA President Cyprian Montrope said the organisation has learnt that the authorities leading the OKEU transitioning — which have already taken place — have since been spreading misinformation to its employees regarding “secondment”.
Montrope said the CSA strongly objects to this option of employment to the staff and that the organisation has consistently informed the Ministry of Health of its position regarding the welfare of its members.
“Our position has always been and will always be that given Sections 34 of the principal Act, Millennium Development No. 1 of 2015, the staff currently employed with Victoria Hospital, the National Wellness Centre and Turning Point Rehabilitation Center be absorbed into OKEU as full-time employees and not on contract.”
Monttrope added: “Secondment is a form of contract as it has term limits. The CSA has always been opposed to any contractual arrangement for the staff mentioned above. We never supported the secondment of staff from two years to eight years in the manner described to us. The change in the law was not the making of the CSA, and therefore the CSA does not take responsibility for it. The CSA only wanted its members to be full-time employees of the OKEU.”