Relationship with new minister, COO has staved off BPL strike, for now

‘All we’re asking for is a safe environment to work in, and that our benefits are respected’

Although Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) workers have a strike certificate in hand, the emergence of a new minister to oversee the power company, and the intervention of BPL’s chief operations officer (COO), have led the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union to shelve its certificate for now, the union’s President Kyle Wilson said Friday.

Wilson called BPL’s COO Toni Seymour a “breath of fresh air”, and said the fledgling relationship with Minister Jobeth Coleby-Davis has had “a good start”.

“All we’re asking for is a safe environment to work in, that our benefits be respected, that our industrial agreement be respected,” said Wilson.

“We’re working along with the COO, Toni Seymour, who’s acting in the capacity of the CEO in his absence, and she has been nothing but a breath of fresh air for the union to work with.

“And we are moving forward, we may not make the steps and one leap, but we are making incremental steps to resolve the issue. And so, because of that, maybe it’s lowering the tensions around BPL, workers are starting to feel upbeat again.

“And just to have the minister come, put on a hardhat, put on boots and walk along with the leadership and be willing to see firsthand. It’s like a doctor, you know, you can’t fix it just on sight or hearing, she has to come and see for herself, touch and see what the workers are going through, walk along with the workers and see what we do, so she can prescribe the right medicines to fix the union’s issues.

“And so it’s a good start. I like what I’m seeing so far.”

Wilson said Coleby-Davis asked for an opportunity to understand the union’s issues and he said the union is willing to give her that grace period.

According to Wilson, there are unsafe working conditions on BPL sites. He explained that the union is simply asking for their concerns on these hazards to be addressed.

“We had OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] inspectors that were here too, and I was updating her [Coleby-Davis],” said Wilson.

“I showed her where cables had faults, cables would have blown, leaving 15-foot craters and stuff like that. And these are areas where we change our clothing.

“These are buildings that were built 50-plus years ago, and so we’re asking for new buildings for the safety of the workers, that we don’t have to traverse the plant in our personal clothing and unsafe gear to get to a changing area, but to put us in a more safe area where we could put on our safety clothing to get to the workstations.”

He said the workers do not want to strike, but are also not afraid to do what they have to do to protect their benefits, safety, and standard of living.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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