Union leaders slam PM
Several major unions in the country may not have abandoned their plan to hold a general strike despite a warning from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
At a press conference at the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)Hall on Farrington Road yesterday, National Congress of Trade Unions(NCTU)President Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson said in short order the unions will take a stand similar to the one taken by union leaders in 1958–the year of the general strike.
Her comments came days after Ingraham cautioned public service workers against participating in any industrial unrest that may be called by union leaders objecting to the proposed sale of a majority share of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).
“…When you walk off your job, if you do, there is no guarantee that you can come back to that job no guarantee,”the prime minister said.
Yesterday, Isaacs-Dotson said:”The NCTU and the Trade Union Congress, without reservation, reject these threats by Prime Minister Ingraham and want him to know we are not intimidated or frightened and a day will come, in the very near future, where he will be dismissed from his job.”
She said the unions have not forgotten how the government treated nurses, police officers, customs and immigration officers, ZNS employees, casino workers and faculty at The College of The Bahamas.
“Let it be known that we will, in the very near future, invite all of these persons and thousands of Bahamian workers from all walks of life to take a stand, similar to the stand that was taken by our forefathers in 1958 and together fight oppression and injustice by a non-caring government,”said Isaacs-Dotson.
However, she shied away from stating exactly what those moves will entail or exactly when they will take place.
Isaacs-Dotson said the’disrespectful’and’irresponsible’statements made by the prime minister only after stage one of the union’s protest, is an indication that he is quite aware of the collective power of the Bahamian people.
“We wish to remind the prime minister that it was these same workers that got him his job and it is these workers that stood together in 1999 and shouted with a loud voice,’enough is enough’. Mr. Prime Minister, we wish to let you know that stage two is on the way and stages three and four will follow. We will not be moved,”said Isaacs-Dotson.
She said that even in these tough economic times workers still have rights and freedom, which include a right not to be threatened in their employment and the freedom to stand against oppression and injustice.
The unions have on several occasions threatened a national strike.
They began their industrial action earlier this month after the government announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)with Cable and Wireless Communications to purchase a 51 percent stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company for$210 million, plus stamp tax.
“We, the workers of this nation, are tired of being treated as second class citizens in our own country and we will take a stand against him and any other person who believes that foreign is better and Bahamians cannot operate a successful national telecommunications company in our beloved Bahamaland in 2010,”Isaacs-Dotson said.
While the union leaders threatened action yesterday, they have given an undertaking that they will not stage industrial unrest while an appeal related to their matter is outstanding. On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Bernard Turner dismissed an injunction that had been granted preventing any further action.
BTC intends to appeal that ruling.