BTC shuts down
Hundreds of Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)workers stormed their employer’s head office on John F. Kennedy Drive yesterday, ripped open a closed gate and marching around the building seven times in protest of the company’s imminent sale to British-based Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).
Their industrial action–termed”illegal”by BTC management–shut down the company’s retail and customer service centers and inconvenienced some BTC subscribers.
The crowd of Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)members gathered at the union’s headquarters on Farrington Road along with Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)members and representatives of affiliate unions.
The new president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of the Bahamas(NCTUB)Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson and the head of the Bahamas Christian Council Rev. Patrick Paul were among those present to show solidarity.
The Christian Council, through Paul, offered its full support to the unions, whose campaign to stop the government from selling 51 percent of BTC to CWC is based on its belief that the company should not be sold to foreigners, but have Bahamian principals.
“I stand with you this morning in agreement that indeed to sell any of the landmarks that we have inherited just little under 37 years ago is bad, is sad and is incorrect,”said Paul.
“We are in a very critical juncture in the history of The Bahamas and I call upon you to stand as one person. I call upon you to stand as one man.
“We live in a democratic country, meaning that the majority rules and government was given the privilege to serve the people and any government that forgets that their role is to serve should be dealt with by the people. And so we stand with you this morning in agreement that[BTC]should belong to Bahamians.”
The crowd of union members marched to the entrance of BTC singing the NCTUB’s credo’Solidarity Forever’.
When the workers arrived BTC security guards hastily attempted to shut the gates of the compound to prevent the members from entering, but the front line of the march tore one of the gates open.
Union member, Wendy Hall, who was one of the first on the gate, was thrown to the ground in the instant and short-lived melee.
“It was just a spur of the moment thing,”she said.”It was just a rush.”
According to Hall, she sustained no injuries. She was helped back to her feet by several of her colleagues.
On the steps of BTC’s head office, President of the BCPOU Bernard Evans made it clear what their demands were.
“We don’t want to work for you(CWC),”he shouted toward the building.”Go home.”
The crowd echoed his chant”go home.”
The unions have made it clear over and over again that they do not believe jobs at BTC will be secured under Cable and Wireless.
They insist that BTC should be owned and operated by only Bahamians.
“We[are]too old now to look for new jobs and I’m too tired to answer to some white man again,”said Evans.”Whenever investors come into this country they are foreign. Why should we take what we have and give it to them?”
Isaacs-Dotson echoed similar sentiments, assuring BTC’s workers that the NCTUB is behind them 100 percent.
“We want to say that we stand with you because today it’s you, tomorrow it’s Water and Sewerage, BEC and COB, and it’s time we take our country back,”she said.
“It’s time we empower Bahamians to own[BTC]and not to be the slaves anymore. Time for us to own our land again.
“In 1973 we became independent and we want that independence, we want ownership, we want to own our country.
“We don’t want people coming in and telling us what to do anymore.”
President of the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union William Carroll told the crowd that BTC managers who are members of the union were in full support of the action taken yesterday.
Before marching back to the BCPOU’s headquarters the union members formed a human chain around the circumference of the BTC building and said a silent prayer.
“We have a destiny and that destiny is to stand up for what is right not only for ourselves but for this nation,”said Evans,”civil disobedience to call for what is right and what is just.”