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Unions to fight BTC sale

The unions representing workers at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)and the largest trade union association in the country are preparing to mount a major challenge to the government’s effort to sell a majority stake in BTC to Cable&Wireless(C&W).

“This whole movement transcends BTC workers and BCPOU(Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union). We believe it is more nationalistic now. This is not a good deal. We don’t think that this is a good fit and we are going to show our displeasure and disagreement in a very, very strong and concise way,”said BCPOU President Bernard Evans toThe Nassau Guardianyesterday.

The country’s largest unions, through the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas(NCTUB), have come together in a bid to formalize a plan on the way forward in opposition to the BTC sale.

The government is proposing to sell 51 percent of BTC to C&W for$210 million plus taxes.

The labor leaders attended a meeting at BCPOU headquarters on Thursday night, as the union updated its members on the proposed sale.

Evans said BTC workers have given the union the go-ahead to continue opposing the sale to C&W. The newly-elected executives of the NCTUB have pledged their support to this effort.

“The feed back from my members is that we must continue to stand strong against Cable and Wireless until we can’t do it any longer. We intend to hold through the NCTUB a rally and we are inviting the entire nation,”said Evans.

The government announced on Wednesday that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)with C&W for the BTC sale.

In a recent interview withThe Guardian, newly-elected NCTUB President Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson said focus would be placed on unifying the trade union movement and addressing the concerns of affiliate unions.

Isaacs-Dotson said the BTC sale to C&W would be first on her list of priorities.

Evans and Isaacs-Dotson have not revealed the range of actions the unions could take in opposition to the BTC sale. However,The Guardianunderstands that they are scheduled to meet today to discuss the matter.

Opposition Leader Perry Christie publicly criticized the government on Thursday regarding the BTC sale.

“All through, prior governments said that Cable and Wireless was not the kind of company that we should sell to. It was just a given that it was not going to happen,”he said.

Both the BCPOU and the Bahamas Communications Public Managers Union(BCPMU)have agitated for the majority stake in BTC to be sold to Bahamians.

“BTC represents a great opportunity to expand our business in a region where we have competitive strength and management capability,”said C&W Chief Executive Tony Rice in a statement after the MOU was signed on Wednesday.

“This opportunity would fit with our strategy to develop the C&W business through market leading and cash generative business. In partnering with the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas we believe that we can deliver a world-class telecoms capability to the people and businesses of The Bahamas, and deliver significant operational improvements to BTC.”

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