Nurses walk along Chancery Lane, San Fernando, on October 1.

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Minister of Finance Colm Imbert says Government plans to regularise contracts for nurses among its goals for fiscal 2021/22.

Speaking during yesterday’s 2022 Budget presentation in the parliament, Imbert said, “I’ve also been advised, madame Speaker, that several nurses in the regional health authorities are employed on temporary contracts. As a result, I’ve instructed the Chief Personnel Officer to investigate this situation and its implication for pension arrangements and recommend solutions to ensure that the employment contracts of these nurses are regularised,” Imbert said.

“I expect that this exercise will be completed by the end of December 2021.”

The announcement has been met with favour by T&T Registered Nurses’ Association (TTRNA) president Idi Stuart, who thanked Minister Imbert for the move.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses’ Association must indicate our appreciation for the Finance Minister acknowledging firstly that there is a grave problem with regards to the employment practices of nurses within the regional health authorities,” Stuart said.

He was also pleased with the timeline proposed by Imbert. The move, he said, will benefit almost one-third of nurses nationally.

“I am estimating around 2,000 nurses who are on different forms of temporary contracts and it’s (the contracts) wide and numerous,” he said.

“You have from one-year contracts owing gratuity, then you have others on three months, six months, one-year temporary employment without no gratuity, no pension. You have others acting as nurses – whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

It’s a point of contention for the TTRNA which formed part of its demonstration last Friday.

Imbert also announced yesterday that the Chief Personnel Officer was instructed to settle outstanding wage negotiations in the public service in 2022. While this is also a welcomed move for nurses, Stuart fears the TTRNA is disadvantaged in this process.

He said the association applied to be recognised as the majority union for nurses some six years ago and is still awaiting approval from the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board. He is asking that this be rectified for these upcoming negotiations.

However, if it is not, he is asking that the TTRNA still be allowed to negotiate on behalf of nurses in lieu of the approval.

The health sector was allocated $6.395 billion in the budget – its allocation largest yet. Minister Imbert indicated that some US$18.1 million had also been spent on acquiring COVID-19 vaccines.