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NIB workers hope to hold strike poll on Friday

Workers at the National Insurance Board (NIB) who are members of the Union of Public Officers (UPO) hope to hold a strike vote on Friday after a Supreme Court ruling yesterday.

According to Director of Labour John Pinder, Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles ruled that the UPO must send a proper application notice to the minister of labor before holding its strike poll.

“The ruling spoke to the fact that they must send out a proper notice so that we can conduct a poll,” Pinder told The Nassau Guardian.

“So, they agreed to get proper notice out before the day is out so that we can conduct the poll on Friday.

“We are mandated by law to conduct a poll within 48 hours, but you have to send the minister a proper notice, which needs to include all of the islands so that all of the members have the right to vote.”

The union was set to conduct a strike poll last Friday, but discovered at the last minute, that it was deemed invalid.

On Monday, UPO President Ghion Roach indicated that out of his 406 members, 226 of them voted in favor of a strike and one voted against it in New Providence last Friday.

He added that 27 members voted yes in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

However, New Providence and Abaco were left off Roach’s initial application notice, according to Pinder.

“We never had [any] objection to doing the poll, you know, [b]ut the minister would not do a poll unless you can certify it,” Pinder said.

“If he sees an illegality in it prior to giving them an approval, he would ask us to correct it. We had several correspondences with the new president trying to get it corrected you know, but at the last minute when he wrote the previous letter, he forgot to put Abaco and New Providence back on it.”

Line-staff at NIB are peeved over delayed negotiations for their industrial agreement, which expired last December.

This has caused two walkouts over the past week.

This week, UPO members went on work to rule.

In response, Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle said, “If workers are on work to rule, that’s all we require them to do. We want them to do what their jobs require them to do.”

Roach said yesterday that Rolle should be more sensitive to the union’s plight.

“He’s had the authority to end this in May when it all started,” Roach told The Nassau Guardian.

“So, the fact that he’s not bothered by it means that we will continue to do what we have to do.”

On Sunday, NIB called for a de-escalation of the matter “in order to seek an amicable solution which does not include the interruption of pension and other benefit payments to Bahamians and residents who rely on NIB”.

It added: “While typical agreements in The Bahamas have ranged between six and 10 percent in salary increases over a five-year period, demands made upon NIB by the union have been calculated to be in excess of 20 percent for the five-year contract.”

That same day, the UPO said: “The union has not asked for any salary increases outside of what occurs normally. Incremental salary increases are based solely on the performance of the employee, as pay increases are earned and not given. The board has proposed to remove all salary increases over the five-year industrial agreement, as it seeks to continue to take away from the union worker.”

However, NIB insisted that it is operating in good faith.

On Monday, Pinder said the two sides are “very close to reaching a deal”. He said the union was requesting a $5,000 lump sum payment and NIB was prepared to agree to $4,000.

Pinder said he is confident that both parties will be able to come to an agreement in a matter of a week, however he’s uncertain that this can happen before the union decides to withdraw their services.

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