Unions must separate politics from protest
The Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)must be the newest trade union in the country. Numerous PLP members of Parliament and senior party officers attended the mass union rally at the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers(BCPOU)Hall on Wednesday night.
Having the PLP present at the rally does not help the unions’cause. The unions argue that they want BTC sold to Bahamians. The PLP wanted to sell 49 percent of BTC to a nebulous network of foreigners before it lost the government in 2007.
The PLP was at the rally because the unions are causing trouble for the government. A PLP that spent much of its time in opposition factionalized is now seeking to capitalize on the missteps of the Free National Movement(FNM). The PLP was not there to support workers.
The unions are advocating for a policy we support. Bahamian assets should be sold to Bahamians. They are also attempting to preserve jobs at the company.
Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)wants to terminate 30 percent of the employees at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC). The unions oppose this move.
We think the public service is overstaffed and inefficient. However, the unions have a right to fight for the members they represent.
In doing so, the unions must ensure they do not allow politicians to latch on to their cause for political gain. When voters look at pictures in newspapers and see the opposition at the rally, the protest could appear politically motivated rather than being based on a dispute between government and labor.
The opposition is hoping the BTC dispute becomes as nasty as it did at the end of the FNM’s second term in office, when angry union members confronted Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham in front of the Cabinet Office.
Current PLP Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson was the BCPOU president at the time. He became a PLP candidate shortly after his union embarrassed the government.
We hope the current leaders of the BTC unions are not on the offensive against the government because they are auditioning for political office. The presence of the PLP at the rally could give that impression.
If the unions are operating independent of the PLP, they should make it known that the opposition is not a part of their camp.
The PLP has no message on the BTC issue that is different from the FNM. The unions should not allow the opposition to appear to be their champion when they share the same policies as the FNM.