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Another mass rally tonight by unions against BTC sale

The unions will hold another mass rally tonight in protest of the imminent sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC).

Union leaders say they expect record numbers at the R.M. Bailey Park and are calling on all Bahamians to join them in their fight to save BTC for Bahamians.

In addition to all of the major unions, Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)members intend to attend the rally.

Despite meetings with executives of Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC), the PLP has not changed its position on the sale of the majority stake in BTC to the international telecommunications company, according to PLP leader Perry Christie.

In fact the former prime minister said the party fully supports the work of the unions. He said their opposition to the sale serves the country well.

Christie said while he had no part in instructing party members to attend the rally, he confirmed that members were invited.

During the PLP’s prayer breakfast yesterday morning, the master of ceremonies called on party members to support the cause.

Since the sale of BTC was announced Christie stated that the party felt all along that CWC was not the right company to sell 51 percent of BTC to.

“We’ve taken our position on[the sale]and some of our colleagues had the opportunity to meet with the representatives of CWC on my behalf where they had frank discussions,”Christie said yesterday.

“But our position has not changed and I don’t see how it could until we’ve had the benefit to look at the documentation in terms of what is happening.

“We simply do not know and in any event I think it is very wrong for the sale of 51 percent without giving the country an opportunity to determine whether you want to go that far.”

A memorandum of understanding(MOU)was agreed between the BTC privatization committee and Cable and Wireless in November at a cost of$210 million, plus stamp tax.

The PLP called on the government to make the MOU public on several occasions but the government has yet to do so.

“The initial position we took remains until such time as new information would come that could materially affect the factor that led us to the conclusion that we had. We are supportive of what the union is doing. We think that they are trying to serve the best interests of the country. Too many people are in the dark in respect to what is actually happening,”Christie added.

He said he believes that the government intends to bring the country up to date when Parliament resumes on January 19.

Back in 2007, the then PLP administration was seeking a deal with Bluewater Ventures Limited to sell 49 percent of BTC for$260 million.

Bernard Evans, president of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU), has said on several occasions that the union would not welcome CWC.

“Their track record as far as labor relations is not good, and even given the potential model that they want to implement in terms of regional governance and control, it is not conducive to the Bahamian psyche that I know, that we know,”Evans said previously.

BTC unions have had strong support from affiliate unions since protest action started last month.

The unions are adamant that control of BTC should remain in the hands of Bahamians.

The rally comes after BTC unions agreed not to stage any form of industrial unrest while an appeal related to their matter is pending before the Court of Appeal. The unions-the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)and BCPOU-made that agreement after Supreme Court Justice Bernard Turner dismissed an injunction restricting the unions representing BTC employees from continuing work stoppages.

BTC had secured the injunction against the unions on December 7 after the BCPOU and BCPMU participated in a protest against the proposed sale.

The action shut down the company’s retail and customer service centers.

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