Jamaica medical workers strike for overdue payments, disrupting operations at public hospitals

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hundreds of medical workers strike in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hundreds of medical technicians, nurse’s aides and other support staff at Jamaica’s major public hospitals went on strike Monday to demand pay raises and allowances they say haven’t been paid by the government.

The walkout left public hospitals and clinics across the Caribbean island short-handed for such duties as taking X-rays and administering blood tests. Some unionized ambulance drivers also took part.

Clifton Brown, president of the Jamaica Workers’ Union, said the strike was for one-day and came after “months of frustration, anger, and promises not kept” by Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s administration.

“The government is dragging its feet. This 24-hour strike is sending a signal that we need attention now,” Brown said.

Some strikers contradicted Brown’s 24-hour timetable, telling reporters they would not return to work until the government provided a precise date for payment.

The workers say they are owed 7 percent salary increases and food and travel allowances that have gone unpaid since 2007, but did not immediately disclose an overall amount.

Dozens of strikers blew whistles and carried placards outside Kingston hospitals, but most apparently stayed home during a rainy Monday.

Health Minister Rudyard Spencer said his ministry received no prior notice of the motive behind the strike.

Meanwhile, union representatives and labor ministry officials planned a meeting later Monday seeking to reach an agreement.

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