Picture this. You don’t turn up for work on Monday. The boss assumes you’re sick and waits until Tuesday for you to reappear or contact him/her. No luck. Wednesday s/he’s hopping mad and phones you. “It’s OK – don’t worry” you tell him/her. “Things are a bit muddled at home right now so I won’t be coming in on one day or sometimes two days a week between now and Christmas. But there’s no problem – I’ll make up the days by working during my holiday time next Summer”. How do you think your boss would react? Would s/he scream and shout, would s/he go berserk? Or just sack you?
The reason I paint this little vignette is that I was talking to a nurse this morning. In passing she mentioned that since April, she’s been paid £160 a month less than she should be. One month it was £174 and she sees no end in sight. Nobody came to her and asked if it’d be all right if she was short-changed in this way and reassured her it was OK, because she’d get the money in the end. It just happened. Why?
Because of management. Through the kind of mismanagement that would make an elephant in a tea-shop seem nimble-footed, the very basis of the working contract – I give you my labour, you in return pay me – has been set aside. Take it or leave it. And count yourself lucky you’ll get the withheld money sometime.
I don’t know who these faceless baboons are who’ve landed hard-working people like this nurse in this situation. But I do know that in these matters, the buck traditionally stops with the boss – the man or woman in charge. In this case it’s Edwin Poots. I heard Edwin on the radio yesterday, essentially blaming Sinn Féin for the mess that Health is now in. Listen, Edwin. Go back and sort out the outrageous and contemptuous way that workers in the NHS like my nurse have been treated, and then come and start talking about bigger matters. Don’t blame other people or other parties. You’re in charge of Health. You’re being well paid for it – and on time, I’d surmise. If you’re so ham-fisted you can’t organise the payment of people who do heroic work, then get out of the way and let someone with even minimal management skills undo the damage.