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Unions dismiss PM’s threat

The standoff between the Government of The Bahamas andunions opposing the sale of a majority share of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to a foreign firm continued yesterdaywith the union president who is leading the fight dismissing the prime minister’s recent warning to workers.

The leader of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)Bernard Evans said BTC workers already know that if the deal with Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)is sealed job cuts would occur within two years, so they have nothing to lose.

“Our workers have told us that they are not going to follow the government’s plan to sell to CWC.
They would rather follow our plan which is to agitate and to oppose to the bitter end,”Evans said.

“And so we are going to continue that fight throughout the Christmas and into the new year if we have to. But certainly, we will continue with the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas(NCTUB)and the Trade Union Congress(TUC)and we will not succumb to any kind of threats over job losses.”

On Saturday, Ingraham cautioned public service workers against participating in any industrial unrest that may be called by the union leaders.

“I wish to caution them not to follow the current plans of the president of the NCTUB and BCPOU because when you walk off your job, if you do, there is no guarantee that you can come back to that job no guarantee.

“Jobs are scarce. Jobs are hard to find. And no one is able to stop you from cutting off your nose to spite your face; that is your face. But at the end of the day, you won’t have a nose that is the judgment you can make,”said the prime minister while speaking at a pre-Christmas breakfast held at the Mary Star of the Sea School auditorium in Freeport.

Earlier this month, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with CWC to purchase a 51 percent stake in BTC.

It came about five months after the government started negotiations with CWC, which, according to privatization documents, was not initially interested in BTC although it was listed as a preferred bidder.

Since the signing, the unions have intensified their objections to the planned sale and have on several occasions threatened a national strike.

Union sources toldThe Nassau Guardianthat a’black Christmas’is being contemplated.

In a statement released Sunday, the Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)condemned Ingraham’s direct threat to BTC workers and suggested he speak to union members instead of”acting the part of a political hack.”

Yesterday, Evans accused Ingraham of trying to”demonize”the workers of BTC and politicizing the issue, while attempting to turn the Bahamian people against the unions.

NCTUB president Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson was reportedly out of the country yesterday. She could not be reached to respond to the prime minister’s comments.

However, former NCTUB president John Pinder said the Constitution of The Bahamas gives workers the right to withdraw their labor if they feel there is something valuable enough to fight for.

“If the taxi cab union in 1958, headed by Sir Clifford Darling, did not go on a 19-day strike they would never have accomplished…what they set out to do. The prime minister can say what he wants to say, there are laws in the country that govern the trade union movement and the employer,”said Pinder. 

“And so if the employee is not in violation of any of those then you can’t punish them. And if they are in violation there are minimum and maximum penalties. But certainly, you cannot fire an employee if he/she deems it necessary to withdraw their labor in support of something, especially of a national nature.”

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