Govt trying to determine legitimacy of teacher strike poll

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said yesterday the Department of Labour is trying to determine the legitimacy of a recent strike vote taken by the teachers’ union.

A majority of teachers at C.H. Reeves Junior High School voted to strike on December 7.

But Foulkes said, “We’re trying to figure out if it falls under the Industrial Act.”

The Industrial Relations Act requires all members of a bargaining unit to have an opportunity to participate in a strike vote.

Only teachers at C.H. Reeves took part in the recent vote.

According to Director of Labour John Pinder, 69 of the 74 teachers took part in the vote.

Sixty-eight vote to strike and one voted against it, he said.

On Monday, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said the union is prepared to take legal action if they are not granted a strike certificate for teachers at C.H. Reeves.

Foulkes said the certificate could not be easily granted because all members of the union did not take part in the vote.

“In my experience as minister of labor, and this my third time as minister of labor, I can tell you I’ve never approved a strike vote for a part of a bargaining unit,” he said.

“It was always for the entire bargaining unit. Now, I understand why she applied for C.H. Reeves only because the issues involved are specific to C.H. Reeves. So, I understand that.”

He said there is no legal precedent for this case, and, so, he has asked the Office of the Attorney General to review the matter.

“We actually asked, a few days ago, the attorney general’s office,” Foulkes said.

“I don’t know how soon they will respond, but I’ve spoken to Ms. Wilson face-to-face about it and she is fully aware of our concerns. We know what her position is. Her position is that they are entitled to it but we just want to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

Foulkes was unable to provide a timeline as to how long it would take to hear back from the Office of the Attorney General.

“I cannot control when we get the advice back from the AG’s office, but as soon as it comes back we will communicate with the president of the union and let her know officially what our position is,” he said.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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