Christian Council president softens tone on BTC issue
Two weeks after coming out strong against the Ingraham administration, Bahamas Christian Council President Rev. Patrick Paul yesterday called for a mediation process to take place between the government and unions as both sides continue to square off over the proposed sale of 51 percent stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).
“The government indeed has a responsibility to do what they believe is best for the country, and of course the unions have their positions as well, and so at this time I think the best thing, is by any means, if there can be a level of mediation between the government and the union,”Paul toldThe Nassau Guardian following a pastor’s fellowship luncheon at the New Covenant Baptist Church on the East West Highway.
“I think that will fare better because all things being considered, there are several accomplishments that readily come to mind by which the government would have accomplished from 2007 to the present time.
“I have accumulated more than 22 different objectives that this country has benefited[from]with respect[to]the good foot or good step by which the government has taken. To come to the end of the year at such loggerhead would not be good. I think they can reach a place where it is a win-win situation for all.”
At a union meeting on December 7, Paul hit out at the government as he threw his support behind the unions in their fight against the planned BTC sale to CWC.
Paul told the workers,”We are in a very critical juncture in the history of The Bahamas and I call upon you to stand as one person. I call upon you to stand as one man.
“We live in a democratic country, meaning that the majority rules and government was given the privilege to serve the people and any government that forgets that their role is to serve should be dealt with by the people. And so we stand with you this morning in agreement that[BTC]should belong to Bahamians.”
On Saturday, Ingraham cautioned public service workers against participating in any industrial unrest that may be called by the union leaders.
Yesterday, Paul said it was unfortunate that the situation has reached the point where the prime minister felt he had to issue a warning about job losses.
“It is very unfortunate. I would hate to outrightly rebut what he(prime minister)had to say but it is unfortunate in this kind of environment and this kind of time. But, of course, I still believe he is a man with deep resources and a deep sense of what the country needs and I suppose a man of that kind of experience would come to some level of equilibrium with the people,”he said.
Both the National Congress of Trade Unions and the Trade Union Congress have put aside their differences to fight this cause.
Earlier this month, the government announced that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)with CWC to purchase 51 percent stake at a cost of$210 million plus stamp tax.
The Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Unions(BCPOU), which represents line staff workers at BTC, has claimed that CWC has a bad reputation in the region, especially with regard to the treatment of staff.
There are more than 1,000 employees at BTC, the majority of whom are represented by BCPOU and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU).
The unions have on several occasions threatened a national strike and sources toldThe Nassau Guardianlate last week that a’black Christmas’was being contemplated.
But Paul said while he supported the unions’cause he doesn’t think a national strike is the way to go.
“At this time it would be very, very questionable with respect to major industrial action with respect to shutting the whole country down,”he said.
“Both the union and the government should have a cool head and would want to sit down and seek to work this thing out amicably. And, I am hoping and trusting that we can come to that where we can work through these differences.”