TAMPA, Fla. - Demonstrators outside the James A Haley VA Hospital in Tampa joined hundreds of other VA employees around the country to protest their contract which they say has become unfair. Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, workers claim their needs aren’t being met and they’ve had enough.
On Saturday, a dozen of the VA’s employees gathered outside of the hospital with signs and shirts, sharing their message and concerns with those driving by.
“We’re advocating for hazardous duty pay and PPE because if this is the first wave, I don’t want to see what the second wave will look like,” said Wanda Bellamy-White, an employee at the VA hospital and the President of the AFGE Local 547.
As medical workers across the country continue to be stretched thin as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, employees at the James A Haley VA hospital told Fox 13 their hazard pay has been taken off the table.
“The VA won’t recognize hazardous duty pay. But it is, we’re in a pandemic. If that’s not hazardous, why do you think we have this six-feet distancing rule,” said Bellamy-White.
But hazard pay being slashed for those on the front lines isn’t their only worry.
“The unions nationwide had to fight to get adequate PPE for our veterans,” explained Bellamy-White. “Help us protect our veterans and the employees.”
Employees also claim a lack of PPE inside their facility has put their workers and veterans at risk.
“We have had employees that got infected by COVID. We had at one point 125 employees out with COVID,” said Bellamy-White.
Saturday’s demonstrators joined hundreds of other VA workers across the nation as they used the Labor Day weekend to ask for protection and fair treatment so employees can continue to serve veterans in the community.
“Were here because we do support our veterans and we want to protect our veterans,” said Bellamy-White.
In response to the protests, a spokesperson for the James A Haley VA hospital stated, “The health and well-being of the facility's staff and veterans is always our top concern. This protest does not reflect our robust safety practices, which have proven effective. Many of the demands are already part of the facility’s operational response to this pandemic and have been for months.”
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