BEC managers vote to strike
Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union President Irvin Dean said yesterday the BEUMU is preparing for a”shock and awe”strike campaign if the executive management team of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation(BEC)does not come to a concensus with his union over pay increases and a new industrial agreement.
The union held a strike vote yesterday that ended 78 to 1 in favor of a strike, but Dean said before the managers engage in action, they will give BEC until the beginning of next week to respond.
Ninety-six managers were eligible to vote.
Dean said the corporation made an offer to the union Thursday night that was so”offensive”, he could not bring it to his members.
“If I had shared the offer last night, we probably would have had a strike without finishing this(strike vote)process,”he said.
“[Thursday]evening we got something from the corporation. I won’t say what it was because it proved to be offensive more than anything.”
The union staged a sick-out last week in an act of industrial unrest. Dean said then that the union was agitating for BEC to either negotiate a new industrial agreement, which hasn’t happened for four years, or adhere to the conventions of the old agreement, which he claimed BEC is not doing.
“We’re in our fourth year without an industrial agreement,”he said yesterday.
“The union has been going forth all the time with various offers and proposals and we never got a response from the corporation.
“So we are at this phase now where we are going through the strike vote process and within the first hour and a half we have had just over 40 percent of the members come in and vote and most of them I think are in favor of the strike action.”
Trade Union Congress(TUC)President Obie Ferguson said he and his members are backing the actions of the union.
“This union is an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress, so we have a legal obligation to respond whenever the president sees fit,”said Ferguson.
“Workers have the right to withdraw labor and there seems to be an attitude in our community to union bust, to undermine leadership in the unions and to discredit unions.
“These are the people who run BEC and to get a mere increase, to disrespect this union for the last four years, what do you expect this president and the officers to do?”
Ferguson said the ball is in BEC’s court. He contended that its executive management team has to meet with the union members to flesh out a sensible industrial agreement that will be beneficial to both sides.
“The most sensible thing for them to do is to meet with the president forthwith and his executive negotiating committee and sit down and hammer out a sensible, intelligent agreement,”said Ferguson.
Dean said BEC has boasted of profits in the past several months and the union simply wants the share that it did not push for for three years due to the depressed state of the economy.
“We decided they would relax and wait on the economy to turn around and now they say they don’t want to pay,”Dean said.”That’s why we are at this stage now today.”
BEC said in a statement last week that it”remains committed to working closely with the BEUMU in the best interest of its employees and customers. The corporation therefore encourages the union’s leadership to meet with management to discuss their concerns.”