ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The acting boss at the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division is disputing claims by striking workers that the department is suffering in the absence of the aggrieved employees.
Acting Administrative Supervisor of EMS Marlon Destin said the department is operating smoothly despite several co-workers withholding their labour as a form of protest for the past seven days.
Destin said reports that nearly 20 EMS workers are involved in the strike are also untrue.
“Based on the records from the EMS, there are 16 individuals or EMT who have reported to duty and are responding to calls. There are 11 individuals who have not been responding to calls. They have been in, logged in and have not responded to calls. There are three individuals who are presently on vacation,” Destin said.
Destin was catapulted to the head of EMS last Wednesday after supervisor Linton Paul was placed on administrative leave for a month, following a scuffle with Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary (PS) Edson Joseph.
The altercation came on the opening day of industrial action by Paul and about a dozen others over the manner in which Destin and two other colleagues were promoted within the department without the posts being advertised.
Destin said the department is operating just fine under his command despite the industrial action.
“In spite of the fact that the colleagues are saying that EMS is not functioning effectively and efficiently, I am saying … based on the record the EMS is functioning effectively and efficiently,” Destin said.
He also warned the striking workers that “we have to remember as well we have to be careful of the bridges that we burn; we may have to cross those bridges eventually.”
Destin said he has been on the receiving end of much hostility and resentment from co-workers who supported the strike, or are unhappy with the manner in which he and the others were promoted.
Meanwhile Attorney General Justin Simon has suggested the workers have overreacted and their grievances do not warrant the industrial action that they took.
“He (the union representative) is suggesting favouritism in the sense that was not done on a transparent basis. Even if I accept that allegation, and I am not for one moment suggesting that it is true because I do not know the circumstances, does that compel you to deny that service which you provide in medical emergencies … cannot there be some other way to address the issues?” queried Simon.
Health Minister Willmoth Daniel on Monday sought the attorney general’s intervention to advise on whether EMS qualifies as an essential service, a determination that would qualify the strike action as illegal.
Despite leaning to that view, the attorney general has agreed to take the matter to cabinet for discussion tomorrow, after which he would meet with the union delegation.
The striking EMS workers have already turned down requests by Simon, the health minister and the prime minister for them to resume their duties while efforts are made to resolve the standoff.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)