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Nat’l strike threat still looms

The threat of a black Christmas by unions protesting the sale of a 51 percent stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)remains on the table,The Nassau Guardianunderstands.

Sources said union heads met in an hours-long closed meeting yesterday to plan their next move as the government presses ahead with efforts to conclude the deal.

The unions are threatening a general strike, which could include a shut down of major utility services near or around the Christmas holidays.

When contacted yesterday, some of the union heads opted not to confirm or deny whether they were still considering the option.

Leaders of the unions that fall under both the National Congress of Trade Unions and the Trade Union Congress attended the meeting that came a day after they led a demonstration in downtown Nassau.

Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)President Bernard Evans said he could not confirm the black Christmas threat as he, along with his members and those of the other unions are looking forward to having a”very good Christmas.”However, he stressed,”Anything is on the table. Everything is on the table.”

Evans said the members of the BCPOU are outraged that the government intends to sell to CWC and are willing to continue with the struggle.

“They want to see more action. They want to continue their demonstration and they want to continue with their fight,”he said.

“We just know this is a bad deal, and we are not going to stop until the government changes its mind. We hope that enough pressure would be placed on the government for them to just say’let’s just take this back’.”

Evans suggested that a referendum be held to determine whether Bahamians agree with the majority share of BTC being sold to CWC.

Evans said union members are so fed up they are willing to suffer pay cuts.

“I am prepared for whatever the outcome may be,”he said.”We are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes. Whatever the outcome is, we are willing to accept.

“I could not feel more sure in my spirit that what we are doing is right…You have to sacrifice something some way. If sacrifice comes with pay cuts then so be it. But they have to be right and justified in their cuts.”

He claimed that BTC workers who participated in Wednesday’s march were not in violation of the industrial agreement with the company.

Early this month, the government announced that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cable and Wireless for the purchase of the 51 percent stake in BTC at a cost of$210 million plus stamp tax.

The deal is expected to be complete early next year.

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