Operations at the country's national referral hospital slowed significantly this afternoon when about 150 nurses, doctors, and medical personnel staged an impromptu walkout.
It's the new KHMH Workers Union flexing its labour muscle in a dispute over pensions. The workers and management are in a protracted dispute over whether - as workers at the country's largest public hospital - they qualify for the government pension scheme.
It has been a matter of some debate, since the KHMH is an autonomous institutions and hospital workers also contribute to what's called a "provident fund".
The hospital management has been seeking a number of legal opinions - but today the workers walked out to demand and pension and told the management to let the court decide. Here's the action that happened outside the hospital at 3:45.
Lidia Alpuche Peck, President, K.H.M.H. Workers Union
"There is a big issue concerning our pension and we just want to send a message that we are who we are. We do what we do and we are just asking for what we deserve. We do the work. We do much more than other public servants out there in the country and we are just deserving of a pension. Thats all we are asking - a pension. Who are we? Are we public servants or are we servants of the public? are we desirable of a pension or are we not? We just want a clarification. We do the work on a daily basiss. We have done our part trying to set up a provident fund that at least we have something in case it goes the other way that we are not entitled to pension. This is my personal view: If I am working in this country and I am paying taxes and I am toiling the soil every day, I am entitled to a pension. Who is going to pay? that is what we need to find out."
Andrew Baird, Vice President, K.H.M.H. Workers Union
"Let the court decide whether we are pensionable or not. We understand what the pension act says. We understand what Karl Heusner Act says, or else we would have not been here. We think we deserve our pension just like our brothers and sisters out there in the regional hospitals. We do our work and whatever else is asking of us and if they deserve a pension to do little, then we deserve to do more. We are saying to the powers that be, come sit with us. You sign a declaration or a memorandum of understanding in 2015, come back to the table. We've been trying to get them to the table via board of directors and the management of Karl Heusner who decide not to want to include the government. We believe from that memorandum of undestanding all this have arise and we must bring ot back to the table to settle the matter. We want our pension. We deserve our pension and thats final. The membership asks for a walkout today. We are not disrupting the services at Karl Heusner. We are a responsible body, we undestand the type of service that we give to the nation of this country, but also we are asking the nation to undestand that we deserve to have our pension."
The workers were outside for about half an hour and then resumed their duties.
It is a matter of ongoing dispute but the union has not indicated if it will engage in further industrial action. The hospital is considered an essential service.