Unions clash with police
Demonstrators overran police barricades and clashed with officers on Bay Street yesterday as they protested the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).
The unions made good on their promise to bring their ire over the sale to the House of Assembly. They marched from the Southern Recreation Grounds to Rawson Square singing”Solidarity Forever”and popular civil rights movement tune”We shall overcome”.
Police beat some of the protestors with batons as they pushed barricades aside while teams of officers fought them off.
Following the scuffle with police, union leaders and many of their members sat in the middle of Bay Street for a considerable period. They then marched around the block seven times.
The workers called for Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s resignation, for the government to hand over the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)with CWC, and for that deal to be squashed.
“Retire Hubert Ingraham,”they also shouted.
Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)President Bernard Evans attempted to dispel suggestions that there was political motivation sewn into union protests, as several Progressive Liberal Party members attended a recent rally held by the various unions.
“If the shoe was on the other foot and the government was the opposition they would be out here too,”Evans said.
He insisted that every union represented yesterday held different political persuasions which did not drive their cause.
Evans contended that Bahamianization was the single cause heralded among all the union members present.
“This is not only a BTC thing,”he said.”This is a national thing.”
The union consortium that marched up Blue Hill Road, down to Bay Street and on to Raswon Square, included members of both the National Congress of Trade Unions of the Bahamas(NCTUB)and the Trade Union Congress(TUC).
The umbrella unions put their differences aside in order to show support for the BTC workers.
After the unions stormed Rawson Square, one by one union heads warned the government that a national strike could be imminent if they did not rethink the sale of BTC to CWC.
TUC Vice President Cleola Hamilton suggested her organization would stand with members of the BCPOU, and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU), which represent BTC workers.
“Don’t let us call everyone out,”she said.”This was a clear indication that the TUC would be ready to mobilize its members if the unions were to implement a national strike.”
Nelerene Harding of the Airport, Airline and Allied Workers Union(AAAWU)continued with her promise to stand steadfast with the BCPOU and BCPMU.
She reiterated, as she did during the recent union rally, that if the government did not comply with their wishes there would be”no water, no light and no flight.”
President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers(BUT)Belinda Wilson echoed similar sentiments. She said if the government did not heed the unions’cries, that there would be”no read or write”either.
Evans promised that the unions would not relent until the government changed its position on the sale of BTC and would continue to march on Parliament until the sale of BTC to CWC is dead.