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Foulkes: Rights of BTC workers secure

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes yesterday assured workers at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company that they do not have to be concerned about their jobs.

He stressed that the government will not”allow any foolishness”to happen when the deal is sealed with Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)to purchase a 51 percent stake in the telecommunications company.

“The FNM(Free National Movement)government would not allow any company to come into this country and take advantage of our workers. They will comply with the labor laws and they would comply with the existing contracts that are enforced between middle management and line staff at BTC.

“It has to happen. I am not going to be a part of anything that is going to sell out the rights of workers in this country,”said Foulkes, who was making his contribution in the Senate to debate on a bill to amend the Utilities Regulations and Competition Authority Act.

His comments came on the heels of BTC employees ending two days of industrial action in protest of government’s plan to sell the majority stake in the company.

Foulkes stressed that the sale of BTC is timely, necessary and is being done very carefully.

“The agreement was also carefully done, protecting Bahamian jobs. No Bahamian would be made redundant. A voluntary separation package would be offered. Those who accept, fine, and those who do not want to accept, fine,”said Foulkes, who is the FNM’s leader in the Upper Chamber.

Over a week ago, the government announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CWC. The Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU), the labor organization that represents line staff at BTC, is threatening a national strike on the matter.

Yesterday Foulkes said the sale is in the best interest of The Bahamas and BTC workers.

He referred to BTC as a dinosaur that needs to be connected to a larger telecommunications network in order to keep pace in the ever-evolving industry. The FNM senator believes that the Bahamian consumers will be big winners if BTC is privatized while it is still a valuable asset.

“The privatization of BTC will bring much-needed funds to help in the restoration of our financial position. The money would go into the consolidated fund, to reduce the debt, be used for increments for public services, improve schools and health facilities, and fund infrastructural upgrades in the family Islands,”Foulkes said.

Additionally, he said for the first time Bahamians would be able to own shares in BTC. The government plans to make available to Bahamians 25 percent of its 49 percent of shares in the company sometime after the deal is done.

BTC employs approximately 1,200 people.

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