Impasse in union negotiations with BEC
The Bahamas Electrical Utility Workers Union(BEUWU)and the executive management of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation(BEC)has reached an impasse in their contract negotiations and strike action could come at any time, according to BEUWU President Irvin Dean.
The Nassau Guardianunderstands that 30 minutes into talks yesterday morning, both sides failed to reach an agreed position in negotiations, which resulted in the breakdown.
“We gave management notice that we are resorting to industrial action effective immediately. It does not involve a work stoppage, but what it does involve immediately is that we will not be working overtime. My membership is agitated… Strike action could come at any time,”he explained.
“We will not be resorting to sabotage or illegal activities, but after going though the process of the strike vote, we do have the right to strike and withdraw our labor. Essentially, what that means is we would not resort to cutting off the lights, but if the lights do go off we simply would not go to put them back on,”Dean said.
The union has been without an industrial agreement since 2007.
BEUWU and BEC’s executive management met for the first time on February 22 to discuss a new contract. BEUWU has been agitating for BEC to either negotiate a new industrial agreement or adhere to the conventions of the old contract.
“We continue to ask for what is provided for in the industrial agreement. We continue to ask them to honor the industrial agreement by acknowledging Article 47 and rolling Article 43 forward with the rest of the agreement, and BEC is refusing to do so. We have looked at other options but they are not coming with anything which we deemed to be reasonable. So that just went out the window with the members. The members felt like we were wasting time and they said it’s time to take action, and that is why we are at this point right now,”Dean said.
Two weeks ago, middle managers at the corporation voted 78-1 in favor of a strike, but held off on making any move pending the outcome of negotiations.
Up to press time last night,The Nassau Guardianwas unable to speak with BEC General Manager Kevin Basden or Chairman Michael Moss.
BEC’s management has yet to disclose the offer made to the union. Dean claimed the union’s membership is being disadvantaged. He stressed that what the union is asking for is quite reasonable.
“If BEC had honored the industrial agreement from October 1, 2007 we would not even be having this discussion. If the leadership of the corporation was open to the productive suggestions made by members of the union over the years, we would not be at this point. We have people in leadership in the corporation who could sneeze and result in multi-million dollar mistakes, but then nothing happens there, so now if the union is asking for$2 million to$3 million we don’t expect you to come to us now and tell us you can’t afford to pay it,”he said.
The BEUWU represents approximately 100 middle managers at the government-run entity.