PM and union meet in jeopardy

Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson said yesterday he will not attend a meeting with the prime minister on Monday because the details were never confirmed with him by Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes.

“Yesterday, I got a call from the minister of labor concerning a meeting with the prime minister for all of the unions on Monday. I got no further call from the minister, he didn’t confirm a time with me,” Ferguson said.

“I subsequently found out about 20 minutes ago from Mr. Evans that there’s a meeting [and] the meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. I have the Court of Appeal for 10 a.m. on Monday. So, obviously, Obie Ferguson, as president of the TUC, could not be there even if he wanted to be there; it’s just impossible.”

Foulkes announced the upcoming meeting on the floor of the Senate on Thursday.

He said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis was scheduled to meet with the president of all the unions in the country on Monday morning.

“I have personally spoken to both Mr. Obie Ferguson and to Mr. Bernard Evans [president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas] and both of them have accepted the invitation and they are preparing for that meeting,” Foulkes said.

The prime minister will address the country’s labor climate and “specific issues as they relate to the individual unions”, according to Foulkes.

Ferguson told The Nassau Guardian that he wrote a letter to Minnis informing him of dates when he and other unions leaders will be available to meet.

The letter reads, “Dear Prime Minister, I was informed by the Honourable Dion Foulkes, minister of labor, that you would like to have a meeting with the trade unions from both congresses on Monday, December 3, 2018.

“The president of the Consultant Staff Physicians Association (CPSA) Dr. Locksley Munroe, the Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. [Melisande] Bassett, along with the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Ms. Amancha Williams expressed the view that they would like to meet with you as a medical unit to address you on the bargaining impasse.

“They are of the view that the issues are homogenous in nature and would be conflicted with other unions’ issues that are not medical in nature. Having said that, they are prepared to meet with you on Friday, Saturday and Sunday November 30, December 1 and 2, 2018 to disclose of their urgent issues to which you are familiar. We await an early confirmation of your availability.”

The meeting is the result of ongoing labor disputes throughout The Bahamas.

In recent weeks, members of the BNU, the CPSA, the BDU, the Bahamas Union of Teachers, the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas, 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 fourth day of a withdrawal of services by more than 100 senior physicians throughout the country.

Teachers at C.H. Reeves Junior High School have applied for a strike vote over concerns about their working conditions, and the nurses’ union is expected to hold a strike vote next week regarding a recently announced shift change.

Ferguson said with the multitude of labor issues it would be “impractical” for the prime minister to meet with all the unions at once.

“It doesn’t make sense for 30 or 40 unions to show up to the prime minister’s office to discuss individual issues affecting the unions,” he said.

He added: “The individual unions should meet [individually] so they can particularize their particular situation and get resolution to it.”

He said individual meetings would be more productive and would “give us the results we’re looking for”.

Ferguson urged the prime minster to meet with the senior physicians, junior physicians and nurses first because “the medical issue is so critical that it should take precedence”.

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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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