Unions ‘not surprised’ by outcome – and hope grievances will be addressed

Supporters from both parties greet voters as they arrive at the polling division of Thelma Gibson Elementary School. Photo: Tanya Smith-Cartwright


Journalist of the Tribune

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LEADERS of the country’s main unions said they were not surprised by the Liberal Progressive Party’s victory in yesterday’s election and hope their various grievances can be adequately addressed under the new administration.

Shortly after the PLP was announced as the country’s new government, Bahamas Utilities Union chairman Kimsley Ferguson told The Tribune his group was “optimistic” that the new administration would “keep their word” by responding to their concerns.

Earlier this month, dozens of BPSU members protested outside Princess Margaret Hospital, citing unfair promotional practices, pending industry deals and other unresolved grievances.

Mr. Ferguson said that although the union has had problems under a PLP administration in the past, the government’s most recent campaign slogan says it is “a new day”, suggesting that the new administration ” will apply differently from previous PLP administrations in being honorable and addressing the outstanding concerns of workers in this country ”.

“First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the PLP on its victory in the general elections. The Bahamian Utilities Union wants to tell them a battle well fought, ”he said. “We hope that the new prime minister and his cabinet will seek to address concerns about workers in the country as opposed to the old government which seemed not to be very worker friendly.

“And once again, we would like to congratulate the Honorable Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, the Prime Minister-elect and we expect that we will receive an audience with the new team to express the various concerns we have so that the way forward can be chartered and we can report back to our members and give them a glimmer of hope about a situation that had seemed so bleak.

Montgomery Miller, president of the Water and Sewer Management Union, also said he was grateful for the election result.

In the past, he has highlighted a myriad of concerns its members have had with the affairs of the Water and Sewerage Corporation, including instances where directors have been wrongfully fired, employee salaries have been wrongly withheld, and people were transferred without any justification.

“Based on the experience we have had, we are grateful to get a change of government,” he told this newspaper. “We would have had a certain engagement with some PLP members and they met with the Trade Union Congress which is the umbrella union on which we depend. They made certain overtures regarding the memorandum of understanding between workers and unions. So we hope that they honor that and we expect that we will have a much better dialogue because we have not had any dialogue, nothing constructive with this former administration.

Bahamian Electricity Workers Union president Kyle Wilson also referred to the memorandum of understanding signed by the PLP when speaking to The Tribune.

“In this document, they would have laid out the ways in which the problems can be resolved peacefully,” he explained. “I therefore look forward to a peaceful outcome to the outstanding issues that remain in the wise BPL union.”

Over the past four years, BEWU members have staged several protests citing disrespect to the union and mismanagement of their industrial agreement negotiations.

Given this fact, Mr Wilson said he was not surprised by the election results.

“Based on comments from workers across the country, the social unrest, some of the initiatives the former government is said to have taken that would have seemed anti-union and based on sentiment within BPL itself, this is not a shocking surprise to be honest, “he said.

Likewise, Bahamian Teachers Union President Belinda Wilson did not hesitate to voice the concerns of educators across the country.

Yesterday, she doubled down on previous comments calling on government officials to strike the union’s new industrial deal.

“As stated, the Bahamas Union of Teachers expects and demands that whichever party is successful, we expect the deal to be done,” she said.

She added, “The new government has presented itself as a worker-friendly government, so we expect improved communication; industrial goodwill; inclusion in political decisions and a workable plan for education.

Ms Wilson said GOAL needs to be engaged as an important stakeholder. She also said they expect education officials to respect the union and adhere to agreements, rules and regulations.

“There must certainly be a new day in the Ministry and Department of Education. The Bahamas Union of Teachers stands ready to work with the government to ensure that public education is a priority and that the children of our nation will benefit from a quality education system. Teachers are an integral part of the public education system and we look forward to playing our part. Once again, congratulations to the new Prime Minister, the Honorable Philip Brave Davis and his team. ”

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