President of the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas (NCTUB) Bernard Evans said he has been assured by Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis that the government will sit around the table with trade unionists to discuss implementing parts of the Workers Agenda, “as soon as the dust has settled”.
Evans said he has taken that to mean within the next week or so.
At the top of list, Evans said trade unionists want input on statutory board appointees.
“The low hanging fruit for us should be board appointments,” Evans said.
“Statutorily there are some boards that require labor representation and those representation must come with consultation with the congress – for us to say who we want to sit on the board.
“…We do have persons that specialize in certain fields and can really bring important contributions to particular boards.
“Somehow, sometimes these board appointments are made without our input and it becomes a party, someone just puts someone on the board because they support the party. So, they promised to look at that.
“Another thing we asked for is an interim report on some boards. In two years, if you find that a board has blatant disrespect for labor or blatant disrespect for established agreements then there should be some kind of recall system for them to be moved at the halfway mark instead of letting them stay there for five years.”
His comments came as the prime minister this week rounded his cabinet appointments as well as parliamentary secretary appointments.
It is anticipated that the prime minister would soon appoint the new heads and members of quasi-government boards including those of Bahamas Power and Light, the Water and Sewerage Corporation, the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, the Mortgage Corporation, Gaming Board and Bahamasair, among others.
Last month, Davis, while opposition leader, signed a memorandum of understanding with the NCTUB and Trade Union Congress pledging to address key labor issues if elected to government.
Among those issues were the enactment of a livable wage, the supply of a parcel of land to each umbrella union to build their national headquarters and the full implementation of National Health Insurance.
Evans said he is optimistic about the new Davis led administration living up to its promises.
“We know some of those items that we have in the Workers Agenda may be limited statutorily but the sheer endorsement or willingness and agreement public to say that they would work toward the agreement with us on those protections that we put in place was a milestone for us, now it’s only left to be seen if it will be carried out.
“But I have no reason to believe that they will not try given our public signing of the Workers Agenda,” he said.
He added, “Our expectation is that we will be able to have a seat to discuss some of the low hanging fruit of items that we need that are very, very important and need urgent address. So give us I’d say by next week.”
Evans said he has also already had productive discussions with the newly sworn in Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell.
“These are positive signs. “… I will give them this week and maybe into next week, but certainly within a week or so we should be sitting around the table to iron out our concerns,” Evans said.
“But, of course, we are very optimistic. We can only hope that what we signed, what the PLP agreed to, there will be some kind of partnership, tripartite system and have us to the table to discuss some of the issues that affect workers.
“Whether it be for a livable wage to pension mobility, this is chief for us ensuring that persons who move from job to job, to make sure that their pension follows them as opposed to cutting off and starting from year one when they move on to the next job.”