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Unions reject meeting BTC buyer

The Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)have rejected a meeting with the CEO of Caribbean business for Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC), indicating that the dispute between the government, union and company may worsen.

Employees of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)yesterday walked off the job for a third time this week, protesting the sale of 51 percent of BTC to CWC.

A large group of workers held an extended lunch meeting at BCPOU headquarters, Farrington Road yesterday.

BCPOU president Bernard Evans toldThe Nassau Guardianat BCPOU headquarters that the union is not interested in meeting with LIME CEO David Shaw”at anytime”. LIME is CWC’s Caribbean business.

Shaw met with members of the opposition on Wednesday and the media on Thursday.

The BCPOU and Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)are opposed to the BTC sale to CWC. The unions have led three days of industrial action in protest of the government’s decision to sell the BTC majority stake to CWC. The National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas is supporting the BTC unions.

The BTC unions criticized the government for what they described as an extreme secrecy regarding the BTC deal since it was announced on December 2 that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with CWC.

According to BCPMU president William Carroll, though he and Evans were supposed to be a part of the advisory committee for the privatization of BTC, they were never made aware that the government had come to a deal with CWC before it was already agreed.

Both Evans and Carroll said they are unaware of the terms of the MOU.

The government has said that the BTC sale will lead to a rate reduction for consumers. This reduction can happen at anytime, the union leaders argued, as the government is in control of BTC.

Shaw toldThe Tribuneduring an interview on Thursday that BTC customers have been paying 20 to 30 percent more than they should for cellular services.

Carroll emphasized that it would only take a phone call or an e-mail from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to have the rates reduced at BTC.

“If he wants to give Bahamians a good Christmas present, he can cut cellular rates by 50 percent,”said Carroll.”We don’t need a foreign company to reduce rates.”

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