21 Dec 2022

Nurses go on strike and hold protest over meagre pay rises

7:35 am on 21 December 2022
Nurses protesting at today's rally

Nurses protesting at today's rally Photo: Joyetter Feagaimaali'i

In American Samoa about 50 nurses held a protest on Monday morning local time over their employment conditions.

It follows some nurses at the LBJ hospital walking off the job on Friday and again on Monday after discovering their pay was lower than they expected it to be.

The striking nurses protested near the hospital about unpaid overtime and the hospital's failure to pay them wage increments promised last week.

One senior nurse told RNZ Pacific's that with the LBJ hospital hiring unlicensed nurses from Fiji, and putting them up in hotels to await nursing school in January, it must be able to afford wage commitments to its current staff.

Two nurses who spoke on condition of anonymity to KHJ News said they were promised increases in their latest pay cheques, which went into bank accounts last Friday.

They said what they were promised and what was in their accounts did not match.

Those nurses who did receive pay increases are said to have received hikes ranging from 18 cents an hour to $1 an hour, but it is believed that some didn't receive a pay rise at all.

KHJ News reports the nurses saying they work a minimum of 12 hours and the ratio is sometimes one nurse to 12 patients because of the acute nursing shortage.

They said this is against regulations and puts patients' lives at risk.

Since Friday, contract nurses have been manning the wards and clinics, including newly hired ones from Fiji who have yet to undergo certification under US standards.

In a statement, the hospital called the strikes "an untimely calamity" for the LBJ patients.

Hospital CEO Moefa'auo Bill Emmsley met with a group of nurses who provided a letter of grievance.

The hospital said he sincerely listened and then directed them to return to work.

According to the statement, Emmsley explained there have been several initiatives already enacted in support of the nurses' agenda.

It said the CEO reminded the nurses he has always had an open-door policy, and they failed to use it to their advantage accordingly.

LBJ hospital, American Samoa

LBJ hospital, American Samoa Photo: RNZI