Amid increasing concerns relating to the state of labor relations in The Bahamas, union leaders yesterday expressed dissatisfaction regarding their meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.
More than 40 leaders from 30 unions met with Minnis and Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes yesterday morning.
Foulkes said the meeting went “very well” and that he was “very pleased” that the leaders had accepted an invitation to meet with the government.
“I thought personally that it went very well,” Foulkes said.
“Everybody had an opportunity to put all of their issues on the table.”
However, some of the union heads shot that down.
They said they were not hopeful that the meeting would bring a resolution to their issues.
Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB) Membership Secretary Dr. Erecia Hepburn said the meeting was not beneficial.
“We just sat there and vented our concerns, concerns that have been addressed numerous times by numerous union organizations,” Hepburn said.
“There was a meeting six months ago. Nothing has happened [since] then [and] to me we are just moving backwards instead of forwards.”
She added: “It was a waste of my time. I could’ve been grading people’s papers.”
The meeting was the result of ongoing labor disputes throughout The Bahamas.
In recent weeks, members of the Bahamas Nurses Union, the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA), the Bahamas Doctors Union, the Bahamas Union of Teachers, UTEB, the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union, the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union, the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union and the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union have all either demonstrated or threatened industrial action.
The CPSA yesterday continued its sixth day of the withdrawal of services by more than 100 senior physicians throughout the country.
Teachers at C.H. Reeves Junior High School have raised concerns about their working conditions, and the nurses’ union is expected to hold a strike vote today regarding a recently announced shift change.
Commonwealth of the Bahamas Trade Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Tyrone Morris said no progress was made and that union leaders would have to wait to see whether the meeting will bring any resolution to their issues.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see because the myriad of complaints that exist among the unions could not be addressed today,” Morris said.
“So, we just want to thank the prime minster for giving [us] an opportunity to come and [for us] to be in his presence and to say ‘how are you doing’ because nothing meaningful was achieved [and] nothing meaningful was expected by me.”
He said the meeting was just a courtesy call.
“The Bahamians are going to see something [in the media that will] make it appear that the government of The Bahamas is doing something for workers,” Morris said.
“I cannot say that [because] to me that’s far from the truth. Maybe sometime in the distant future my position may change. But right now? No.”
Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kimsley Ferguson said the meeting would have been more effective if Minnis had met with each union individually.
“Amidst all of the challenges that workers may have, particularly globally, there needs be a unique approach to addressing the individual concerns,” Ferguson said.
“There are a number of concerns that the Bahamas Public Services Union has that cannot be addressed in that particular forum.
“[This is] because they are unique to the Bahamas Public Services Union and so there needs to be individual meetings set up with the various unions that represent particular bargaining units so that we can specifically present those concerns again and have them specifically responded to by all the parties concerned.”
In spite of the dissatisfaction shown by union leaders, Foulkes expressed confidence in resolving some of the issues faced by the unions.
“There are a lot of issues in different stages of conciliation before the labor board,” he said.
“Mr. John Pinder and his officers [and] all of the senior officers at the Department of Labour are engaged with at least 90 percent of these issues but they are at different stages of resolution. I am confident as minister of labor that eventually we’ll get the majority of them sorted out.”