Yahneake Sterling, Staff Reporter
Edith Allwood-Anderson (right), president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica, leads yesterday's protest by nurses along Half-Way Tree Road, St. Andrew, yesterday. - RICARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
SEVERAL DISGRUNTLED nurses across the Corporate Area took to the streets yesterday in a two-hour protest to press for better wages after what they claimed is Government's ambivalence to long-delayed salary negotiations.
Simultaneous protests also took place in Manchester and St. Ann.
In Kingston and St. Andrew, almost 30 nurses protested against what they called the "slave wages" that they are now collecting.
"Slavery was abolished in 1838," one placard-bearing nurse yelled angrily.
According to president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Edith Allwood-Anderson, the nurses will continue to protest until they receive an acceptable response from the Government.
"We are going to intensify our actions until we get a response from the relevant authorities," Mrs. Allwood-Anderson told The Gleaner. "The Prime Minister must break her silence!"
She added that a salary increase could stem the migration of nurses, which could be spurred by a recent decision by the Caribbean Community to include the profession in the list of those allowed free movement of labour.
When asked if nurses were planning a shutdown of hospitals, the NAJ head said: "I don't know, but at this time we are not there yet; I could not rule it out, not at this point in time."
Meanwhile, Dionne Murphy, a nurse on the scene, told The Gleaner that they were tired of being frustrated by the ongoing wage issues.
"I can't be preaching health and can't practise it with my own child on my salary," Ms. Murphy said, while stressing that she will soon have the Portmore toll to contend with.
Another nurse, Feron Brown-Hamilton, said the ratio of one nurse to 40 patients was unacceptable and that quality care cannot be given under these conditions.
"Nurses are leaving every day and those who are here are contemplating our next move," she warned. "We will just see what will happen with this salary negotiation."
Yearly salaries for nurses
Level 10 - $1,411,324-$1,677,621
Level 9 - $1,226,236-$1,457,609
Level 8 - $1,077,303-$1,280,575
Level 7 - $965,480-$1,147,652
Level 6 - $887,656-$1,055,144
Level 5 - $865,589-$1,028,913
Level 4 - $733,633-$872,059
Level 3 - $653,316-$776,587
Level 2 - $544,518-$647,261
Level 1 - $405,078-$552,832