Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with Trade Union Congress (TCU) and National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTU) prior to September 16’s general election, according to TUC President Obie Ferguson.
“The unions, they are very optimistic with the ways that things are progressing after being assured by the prime minister that he committed to the MOU,” Ferguson said when called for comment.
He said the government and the unions are “progressively achieving the goals” that were agreed to in the document.
Ferguson said yesterday that things are progressing “very well”.
He promised to make the specifics public “in very short order”.
“We have already started accomplishing a lot of things that we agreed were essential for good governance and for a government that is worker-friendly,” Ferguson said.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) signed the MOU with the umbrella unions in August.
During a signing ceremony for the MOU, Davis said the document was “precatory” and signaled the unification of labor in The Bahamas.
“I say precatory understanding because the committee of the Progressive Liberal Party, headed by our chairperson and in consultation with myself … have looked at the workers’ agenda having found favor with the spirit and intent of those provisions and we are prepared to demonstrate our embrace of the spirit and intent by putting and appending our signature to this precatory document,” he said.
Under the MOU, the parties “agree that the PLP will be supported by the labor movement to become the next government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas”.
The parties have also agreed to “work with the PLP in government to amend the law and regulations where necessary and possible” to implement National Health Insurance; work toward the enactment of a livable wage; redefine wages to include all forms of income including tips and gratuities; ensure that foreign employers are unable to walk away from their financial obligations to workers in the case of the demise of their companies or entities; allow for at least 16 hours of rest between shifts for each employee; strengthen the role of conciliators and enable the rulings of the Industrial Tribunal to be enforced without delay.
Under the MOU, the PLP has agreed to supply each umbrella union with a parcel of land for the building of national headquarters, among other pledges.
Davis and Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell met with the TUC early yesterday morning.
In a tweet, Office of the Prime Minister Press Secretary Clint Watson said the meeting was “setting the tone that abuse of workers must end”.
Watson added that the prime minister announced a new program that was agreed upon by Cabinet “to benefit workers”.
He later told The Nassau Guardian that the program is the decent work program, a program by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
“Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) have been established as the main vehicle for delivery of ILO support to countries,” the ILO’s website notes.
“DWCPs have two basic objectives. They promote decent work as a key component of national development strategies.
“At the same time, they organize ILO knowledge, instruments, advocacy and cooperation at the service of tripartite constituents in a results-based framework to advance the Decent Work Agenda within the fields of comparative advantage of the organization.
“Tripartism and social dialogue are central to the planning and implementation of a coherent and integrated ILO program of assistance to constituents in member states.”
Speaking to reporters before Cabinet, Bell said The Bahamas will sign onto the program on December 6.
He described it as “a very big thing that’s going to be happening now very soon in the country”.
Bell said some of the unions expressed concerns during yesterday’s meeting.
“Obviously, there are a number of agreements that have many outstanding issues: pay, issues related to wage, hours of work, overtime, etc.,” he said.
“So all of those matters we’re going to be discussing today.”