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NIB workers stage walk out

Scores of peeved National Insurance Board (NIB) union members yesterday walked off the job to demonstrate outside of NIB headquarters on Baillou Hill Road, as they prepare to take a strike vote on Friday.

Delayed negotiations over a new industrial agreement was the bone of contention amongst members of the Union of Public Officers (UPO), according to UPO President Ghion Roach.

“We walked off the job because we want to send a message,” he said.

“We’ve been ignored for too long. We’ve been disrespected, and we’ve been disregarded. The union has not been dealt with fairly, and we’re here to let management know that this Friday the union is prepared to take it to the polls and we will have a strike vote.”

Roach said he is confident that the union, which represents 405 line staff, will vote in favor of a strike.

He added that negotiations for the industrial agreement have been stalled since April.

“We had a contract that expired in December of last year. We went back to the table in February, [and] negotiations stalled in April,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to get the director [and her team] back to the table, and they’ve outright told us no.”

Roach also said there has been no response from Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle thus far.

Public Managers Union President Freida Lewis claims her members are coping with disrespect from management.

“We have had some conversations and meetings with management and they have not worked out well, and then there’s this level of trust now that has taken place,” she said.

“We cannot continue in the stead that we’re going in. The unions and management are better served by having relationships where we can sit down and amicably resolve matters.”

In light of this, she added, the organization is not prepared to work in good faith with the unions.

Representatives from the Union of Tertiary Educators, the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union, the Trade Union Congress and the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas stood in solidarity with NIB workers.

Asked to comment on the walkout, Rolle said he asked union members to give him time in light of Hurricane Dorian.

He said: “All I said to the union [was] let’s have an open policy. I’m not going to blindside you. I’m not going to seek to be unfair.”

Back in May union members protested and demanded better working conditions outside of NIB’s Baillou Hill Road headquarters.

Among other issues, the UPO was concerned with alleged unfair hiring practices, stagnated industrial agreement negotiations and delayed issuance of benefits.

NIB yesterday issued a press release apologizing to its customers for any disruption in services.

“NIB has been involved in negotiations with the Union of Public Officers which represents its non-management staff to conclude a new industrial agreement,” the release said.

“Tremendous headway was made over the last six months with only a few articles remaining to be concluded. Since May, the negotiations were moved by the UPO to the minister of the public service and national insurance.

“Management has been advised that negotiations were continuing. NIB continues to meet on an on-going basis and work in good faith with both of its unions to address issues that arise and to foster good relations.”

The PMU’s industrial agreement, NIB said, expires in December 2019 and negotiations for a new agreement are expected to commence shortly.

At this time, the release said, NIB remains focused and committed to providing good customer service despite any operational challenges which may arise, and in cases of disruption, management will continue to trigger its contingency plans to fulfill its mandate and provide service to its stakeholders.

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