American Samoan nurses strike over failure to honour promised pay rises

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Protesting American Samoa nurses
Protesting American Samoa nurses at yesterday's rally in Pagopago. Image: Joyetter Feagaimaali'i/RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific

About 50 striking nurses have held a protest in American Samoa over their employment conditions.

The protest yesterday follows some nurses at the LBJ Hospital who walked off the job on Friday 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 that with the LBJ Hospital hiring unlicensed nurses from Fiji, and accommodating them 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 were credited to 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 did not 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.

A meeting between the nurses and the board of directors and CEO of the hospital is due to take place.

Hospital management has yet to respond to media questions about the nurses’ action.

The CEO of the LBJ Hospital, Moefaauo William Emmsley, announced a week ago that the hospital had completed a salary reclassification for nurses which would bump up the entry rates for nurses and all salary levels.

LBJ hospital, American Samoa
LBJ Hospital in American Samoa . . . an acute nursing shortage. Image: RNZ Pacific

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ. 

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