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ZNS workers terminated

In 2010, change came to the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas(BCB). The government claimed it could no longer afford to pump millions of dollars into the state broadcaster. More than 70 workers were sent home.

In May 2009, National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest, who has ministerial responsibility for broadcasting, disclosed in the House of Assembly that the move to public service broadcasting would lead to restructuring at the corporation known as ZNS Network. At the time ZNS employed 253 people 80 managers and 173 line staffers.

The Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)opposed the government’s move to terminate workers at ZNS. A battle ensued between the unions, which represent workers at ZNS, and the government.

In September 2010, the BCB’s board finalized the number of workers that would be sent home.

BCPOU president Bernard Evans, in one of his strongest addresses to union members following a march to Cabinet, vowed to help defeat the governing Free National Movement(FNM)at the next general election as a result of the alleged mistreatment of workers during the restructuring of the state broadcaster.

The unions went as far as taking over the ZNS newsroom on October 14, leading to the ZNS evening news being cut in the middle of a live broadcast.

The protests led by the unions, however, did not stop the government. Days later, and after months of tension, more than 70 workers were let go.

The unions argued that ZNS workers should have received larger redundancy packages.

Turnquest provided the House of Assembly with information countering the unions’arguments that the ZNS workers did not receive generous separation packages. On October 21, Turnquest tabled the list of payouts to the workers. One manager received a check of$122,000 plus a pension of$32,438.39 per year. One BCPOU member, who had served for 28 years, received a check for$51,755.42 and refund of pension contributions. The lowest BCPOU payout was$5,292.16 to an employee who had only served the corporation for four years. The government gave a’sweetener’to those who accepted voluntary packages. They received an extra three to four months pay in addition to what was owed to them under the industrial agreement signed between the BCB’s board and the BCPOU and BCPMU. Fifteen BCPOU members, and 16 BCPMU members, took the voluntary separation packages.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has said the separation packages were”more than fair.”

The Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)condemned the government for what it categorized as the”callous and heartless”treatment of workers during the downsizing.

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