PM dismisses nat’l strike threat

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday he is not worried about any threat of a national strike, but is concerned about how the Saxons Superstars will perform in the approaching Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade.

Union leaders in recent times have suggested a general strike.

Minnis was asked by a reporter yesterday whether he is concerned about this prospect.

“No, no, no, no. I’m more worried about other matters,” he responded.

“I’m more worried right now and concerned whether the Saxons [are] going to win Junkanoo Christmas. Now, that’s what I’m gearing up for,” he said, then suggested that reporters should also be supporting the Saxons.

Minnis’ comment quickly went viral with many people on social media suggesting he was being dismissive of the concerns of the various trade unions in the country.

The criticisms led to a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday evening.

“The prime minister, after addressing the Third Caribbean Infrastructure Forum at the Baha Mar Convention Centre on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, was asked by the media whether he

was concerned about a general strike. The prime minister responded, ‘no’. He went on to also suggest that there were additional matters upon which he had some worries and concerns,” the statement said.

“The prime minister then within the context of engaging the media in a moment of light humor further said, ‘I am more worried about the Saxons winning Junkanoo this Christmas and that’s what I am gearing up for.’

“He further joked with a member of the media and asked ‘you pull for us don’t you?’ And then asked, ‘You’re not a Saxon?’ The time with the media ended on a high note with the prime minister giving a hearty chuckle to members of the press before moving on to his next assignment.”

The statement added, “The prime minister at no time however sought to make light of or diminish the seriousness of labor issues or the concerns of workers within the country. It was only after giving a clear response to the question that the prime minister sought to use the opportunity, as an avid Junkanooer and member of the Saxons Superstars, to have a light-hearted moment with the media.

“The prime minister meant no disrespect to unions, labor or workers and had also indicated that his time spent with union leaders provided him with the opportunity to receive a brief history of the issues they have faced over the past 15 years. He has also advised that he will consult with [Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes] with a view to establishing an understanding and communication network moving forward.”

Minnis’ comment came in light of ongoing labor disputes throughout the country.

In recent weeks, members of the Bahamas Nurses Union, the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA), the Bahamas Doctors Union, 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 seventh day of a withdrawal of services by more than 100 senior physicians throughout The Bahamas.

It is expected to meet with Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson today in hopes of bringing a resolution to its issues.

Teachers at C.H. Reeves Junior High School have raised concerns about their working conditions, and the nurses’ union held a strike vote yesterday regarding a recently announced shift change.

Last month, union leaders suggested that a national strike was looming.

National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTU) President Bernard Evans told reporters “this country is headed in the direction that time has run out”.

“I don’t want to say [anything] is going to happen before the new year because we don’t want those in power to rest on their laurels but, definitely in the new year, you’ll see a lot of things happening along those lines,” Evans said.

On Monday, Minnis met with more than 40 leaders from 30 unions at his office.

While some of the union heads expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting, Minnis said it was “very informative”.

“I obtained a lot of information [and the] information that I have gathered from them, I will inform my labor minister to meet with the relevant unions so as to deal with the matters,” he said.

“Some of the problems go way back 15 years, you know. I wasn’t even here and then I’m saddled with 15 years of problems but so be it, wear the cap. I’ll ask [my labor minister] to deal with it.”

Minnis said some of the unions raised concerns with “respect to boards and agencies and how they were functioning”.

“I will ask the relevant ministers to speak to [the chairmen] of the relevant boards so you can have better communication between…the unions and the boards and the employees,” he said.

“Communication is the most important thing.”

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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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