Issue of unpaid overtime for nurses surfaced in Parliament


Claims of unpaid overtime for some nurses and lack of risk and hazardous allowances surfaced in Parliament today. 

Member of Parliament, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga raised concerns referencing the bill pending in Parliament, Labour and Relations Act, 2022 which focuses on employment issues.

He spoke on the irony of the bill at hand yet there are public complaints by frontliners namely nurses against the Ministry of Health for unpaid overtime.

“There are also complaints about nurses having to fork up gas [for Government vehicles for their work] which was reported by the media.

“Yet there are fundings from overseas partners to assist with the COVID efforts,” said Peseta. 

The Member of Parliament also pointed out that frontliners all over the globe are entitled to “risk and hazardous allowances” given their exposure to Covid-19. He questioned what is being done locally to ensure frontliners receive this benefit. 

Minister of Health, Valasi Tafito Selesele, disputed claims the nurses are forking up money to pay for gas.

“These claims are quite damaging and yet it is based on rumours,” said the Minister.

Valasi assured Parliament the reports are not true. “There is a comprehensive package pending in Cabinet proposing to pay risk and hazardous allowances.”

Adding that he conducted many site visits out in the hospitals and health centres but there were no complaints by the nurses about the issues that Peseta is raising. The Minister went on to accuse Peseta of “twisting information”. 

Peseta cautioned Peseta not to address rumours in Parliament in any case he will move a motion to provide evidence and supporting documents to be reviewed in Parliament. 

The Minister reiterated there is a pending comprehensive paper in Cabinet about risk allowances for the frontliners.

The Health Minister then urged Peseta not to address “hearsay” in Parliament. But Peseta would not budge, telling the Minister the President of the Nurses Association made the public complaints on TV1. 

Earlier this week, we reported that a handful of nurses expressed disappointment over the deduction of their working hours in what they believe is an “illegal” move by the Ministry of Health, referring to their overtime.

One Senior Nurse, Ti’amalo Joe told Radio Polynesia that some nurses including him, are not getting paid overtime and they are only getting their regular salary of 80 hours for two weeks.

Also, they are not getting High-Risk Allowance accorded for frontliners. 

“We are looking at challenging the move by the Health Ministry’s payroll division in Court for illegally cutting our working hours, of what we believe […] was our sacrifice to serve and manage our patients while the whole country is [under] Covid19 lockdown.”

Ti’amalo a male nurse for the Labor Room at the Moto’otua National hospital says the safety of their patients is their “paramount priority, and the nature of our work has to be well addressed by the Public Service Commission and the MoH payroll division.” 

According to Ti’amalo, more than 20 hours were deducted from his salary. 

Adding they are camping at the hostels as they cannot go home for fear of exposing their families and their patients when returning to work is a risk they did not want to take.

“We understand we do have working conditions enforced by our PSC to guide your payroll system.

“So the question is, are you saying to us that leaving our vulnerable parents and children at home while we tried to contain the spread of the Covid19 virus in the hospital and care for affected patients at the same time as an emergency response services is not a working condition,” asked Ti’amalo. 

Adding that while everyone enjoyed the comfort of their bed, they worked long hours to cover for short staff. 

“More than half of our staff got infected with the virus and were forced to stay isolated as per health mandates.”

Ti’amalo also pointed out that the MOH should consider they are exposed to the virus on the daily basis and it is life-threatening but the move by the Ministry to deduct their salaries is not only disheartening and also discouraging.”