Monday, Feb 24, 2020
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Unions issue veiled threat to govt

The unions representing staff at Sandals, Customs and Immigration officers and air traffic controllers yesterday hinted at possible collective industrial action if the minister of labour does not move quickly to resolve their outstanding issues.

Although he stopped short of committing to combined withdrawal of labor, Head of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Obie Ferguson issued the veiled threat to the government over the unresolved labor disputes.

“Something will happen, but we can’t tell you [what].  What I’m prepared to tell you though, these matters must be resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties. The minister must be fair, not only to the employers, but also to the trade unions and the workers of this country,” Ferguson said at a press conference at the House of Labour.

When pressed to reveal what action the unions have planned, Ferguson was vague, but said the unions will not do anything to destabilize the country.

“As an experienced trade unionist, I don’t think any one of my colleagues [or me] would tell you the day, nor the hour that the son of [God] visits.  Rest assured, our interest is the interest of the workers but at the same time…we will do nothing to destroy this little piece of land we have here. . .but we are not going to build The Bahamas for other people,” said Ferguson, flanked by executives of the various unions in question.

The TUC is the umbrella organization for The Bahamas Hotel Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU), the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU) and the Bahamas Customs Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU).

The BHMAWU is agitating for a sit down with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes and executives at Sandals so all parties can hash out an agreement.

BHMAWU President Lynden Taylor said staff at Sandals Royal Bahamian and Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma are “at the end of the rope” and want the union as their collective bargaining agent to settle disputes at the two properties.

“No one wants to take any action against an employer, but sometimes that’s what you have to do. The 500 workers at Sandals are willing to make any move that is necessary in order to get our negotiating process started and get our agreement finalized,” Taylor said.

But Foulkes said he does not have the legal authority to force the parties to negotiate an agreement.

“I can only encourage them to do so, which I have done,” he said.

The BCIAWU is upset that Foulkes has not signed a strike certificate, weeks after a strike vote was taken.

Last Thursday, air traffic controllers began work-to-rule which was reportedly partly to blame for flight delays at Lynden Pindling International Airport over the Christmas holiday weekend.

On Tuesday, Tourism Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace met with the union and both sides have said their grievances are being addressed.

BATCU President Roscoe Perpall said yesterday while discussions with Vanderpool-Wallace were productive, his union would support the BCIAWU and BHMAWU until they reach a satisfactory resolution with the government.

Foulkes told The Nassau Guardian, Labour Board officials have a January 10 date set to sit down with officials from the group representing customs and immigration officers.

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