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Union members protest outside URCA

Two days after protesting outside the House of Assembly, dozens of members of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)and the Bahamas Communication and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)protested outside the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority(URCA)on East Bay Street.

About 150 of the unions’members showed up for the mid-day demonstration to protest what they say is an obvious conflict of interest between URCA and Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)and the claim that URCA employees aren’t being allowed to become unionized.

URCA CEO Usman Saadat and human resources consultant Marsha Lewis(both former CWC executives)play key roles in the regulatory agency, which has assured that its integrity remains firmly intact. BCPOU President Bernard Evans said this is an issue the union has long lamented.

The protest also comes one week after a Bahamian(the latest of three)was fired from URCA.

“They don’t have union representation,”said Evans, who also claimed the BCPOU has long since had bargaining power for the employees.”If they did, there was no way we would have let them send those people home without proper representation.”

The BCPOU is pushing to have an industrial agreement signed for the remaining 16 employees at URCA.

BCPOU Secretary General Denise Wilson said the union has been trying to get the agreement worked out since 2006.

“We sat at the table, we negotiated halfway through the proposed industrial agreement and then they changed the name from the Public Utilities Corporation to URCA, and then they challenged whether these people can be unionized. We have a recognition agreement and if a government agency can take that stance then what happens in the private sector?”she asked.

“We need to be mindful that we are still talking about Bahamians, and Bahamians have the right to work in safe and comfortable environments, and to get the best from the company they work for while they give the best of themselves to that company.”

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has not publicly responded to Wednesday’s demonstration involving hundreds BTC employees and union members who were protesting the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable and Wireless Communications, but the Free National Movement claimed that the Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)organized the protest.

Evans said he’s not concerned with those comments.

“I’d be scared if I was the governing party and all those people were PLPs downtown,”he said.

The PLP has denied it organized the protest.

The Nassau Guardianmade several attempts yesterday to contact URCA officials, but they were said to be in a board meeting.

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