Vanuatu nurses continue battle over unpaid wages
Nurses in Vanuatu still owed unpaid wages despite Government promises to pay up in March.
The ongoing strife in Vanuatu between local nurses and the government over unpaid wages continues.
Most recently, many nurses are reporting the non-payment of wages and salaries owed to them goes back more than a year.
Indira Moala reports.
In March, the Ministry of Health promised that contract nurses in the country would receive their overdue salaries that month. Now several months later, the Vanuatu Nurses Association says many of the nurses still have outstanding pay claims.
The secretary of the association Teppie Fred says the delay is having a huge impact on nurses.
TEPPIE FRED: We have received complaints from a lot of nurses but they haven't received their outstanding claims to date. That contributes to a lot of things like low morale in the work place and if they're not performing to the expected standard. A lot of problems, and we even have some nurses who are not able to pay for their rent. So they're getting warnings from the landlords to vacate their houses. That is some of the impact that currently is happening with some of the nurses here.
She says nurses are now in fear of raising concerns about unpaid wages after receiving threats from the Ministry of Health.
TEPPIE FRED: We've been receiving threats from the ministry and we even ended up with a lot of nurses being suspended just by raising concerns with regards to our issues here. So nurses are in fear. Some of the threats was getting transfer letters to other places. We also received suspensions, that was from last year december because of signing a petition to the Prime Minister's office. If VNA happens to hold a meeting somewhere they come and want to find out what we were discussing.
But the acting director general of health, Dr Santos Wari, rejects those claims.
SANTOS WARI: That's a big surprise to us from the Ministry of Health. That's not true. It's not fair to put that kind of claim on the Ministry of Health while we are trying to do our best with what we have to run the services. Not at all, we have been misled here.
Dr Wari however admits some nurses have still not been paid despite the Ministry's promises earlier in the year.
SANTOS WARI: Yes we know there are a few nurses who have not been paid over a period of time because of a cash situation with the ministry of health. The ministry of health in Vanuatu is undergoing a reform and we are moving staff according to the decentralization policy.
That reform process is highly contentious, with strong criticism from the Nurses Association, which has previously petitioned the government to reconsider. Ms Fred says eight nurses were laid off from the Northern Provincial Hospital just last week because there was not enough money to pay their wages.
Meanwhile, Dr Santos says the new Vila Central Hospital redevelopment probably will not help to resolve the wages situation, and may make it worse
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