Amid escalating labor tensions, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has scheduled a meeting with all labor union heads at his office on Monday.
The meeting is a bid to address their many concerns, which have resulted in threats of industrial action across the country.
Labour Minister Dion Foulkes announced the upcoming meeting on the floor of the Senate yesterday.
“The prime minister will meet with all the presidents of all of the unions in the country, from both umbrella groups, this coming Monday at 10 a.m., at the Office of the Prime Minister,” Foulkes said.
“I have personally spoken to both Mr. Obie Ferguson [president of the Trade Union Congress] and to Mr. Bernard Evans [president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas] and both of them have accepted the invitation and they are preparing for that meeting.
“The prime minister will address the labor climate generally and also address specific issues as they relate to the individual unions.
“So, this will be a wonderful opportunity for the trade union movement to have a head-to-head with the prime minister, and I am very happy, as minister of labor, that this meeting is taking place at this time.”
Speaking to the current climate of the labor environment, Foulkes pointed to industrial agreement issues with employees of Morton Salt and Atlantis, as well as issues with employees of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company Ltd. regarding job security.
He noted that teachers at C.H. Reeves Junior High School have applied for a strike vote over concerns about their working conditions, and the nurses union is expected to hold a strike vote next week regarding a recently announced shift change.
In recent weeks, members of the Bahamas Nurses Union, the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA), the Bahamas Doctors Union, the Bahamas Union of Teachers, the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas, the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union, the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union, the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union and the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union have all either demonstrated or threatened industrial action.
The CPSA yesterday continued its third day of a withdrawal of services by more than 100 senior physicians throughout The Bahamas.
Foulkes’ announcement comes one day after Minnis promised he would be stepping in to resolve the issues with the CPSA and the Public Hospitals Authority.
The parties have been back and forth in negotiations for several weeks regarding the CPSA’s concerns with working conditions, a lack of health insurance and a salary increase.
Senior physicians initially requested $250,000 annually as a base salary, but CPSA President Dr. Locksley Munroe said they are willing to accept $75,000.
The PHA’s most recent counterproposal would have increased the base salary from $48,000 to $60,500.
But Munroe maintains that the offer was unacceptable.
In light of the upcoming meeting with the prime minister, Foulkes yesterday urged the senior doctors to return to work.
“I also wish to encourage the Consultant Physician Staff Association to return to work and return to normal duties, especially taking into consideration that the prime minister has invited the president of the affiliated union, Mr. Obie Ferguson, to a conference on Monday,” he said.