ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Industrial Relations Officer of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) Ralph Potter is confident the industrial action taken by staff members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is not illegal.
Potter said claims by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and Minister of Health Willmoth Daniel that the strike action is illegal are based on the assumption that the EMS forms part of the essentials services.
However, Potter said there is no evidence in that regard. “Nobody can provide proof that they are, and we have said to them if you bring the proof to show that they are part of the essential services, the action we’re taking will cease immediately,” Potter said.
“Nobody can provide any proof that they are and the reason they can’t provide it, is because there is no evidence that they are,” Potter added.
Potter said extensive checks were done to ensure the action wasn’t illegal before it was taken since there were mindful of the fact they could be liable for prosecution if the action was indeed not allowed under the law.
The AT&LU representative is hopeful of meeting with Daniel today along with a contingent of EMS workers to discuss the concerns of the striking workers.
Potter said the health minister gave a conditional agreement to have the meeting based on the legal status of the industrial action being clarified.
Sixteen EMS workers began striking last week over what they say is the failure to follow proper procedures in filling newly created top management positions among other issues.
Meanwhile, AT&LU shop steward and emergency medical technician (EMT) Esther Armstrong has refuted claims it has been business as usual at the department despite the industrial action.
Armstrong said despite a contingency plan calling in extra personnel from the fire service and defence force that beefed up numbers, it was not enough to cover up for the qualification gap that has been left.
“Telling the public you have the majority of staff working and everything is running smoothly is a little beyond the truth. The majority of persons who are taking industrial action are the seniors and the personnel with more years of service,” Armstrong said.
The shop steward said with the exception of two people the reinforcements called in are not qualified to handle emergency situations and can only be used as drivers.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)