Two umbrella labor unions are seeking to merge within three to six months, according to Paul Maynard, acting president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas.
“What we are seeking to do is we are forming a committee within the two umbrella organizations – the National Congress of Trade Unions in The Bahamas and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Trade Union Congress – in order to merge,” Maynard said during a press conference at the Bahamas Communications Public Officers Union hall.
“We are going to work out a path to put our petty differences aside, the egos, etc., in order to merge the labor unions together, umbrella unions together, for the betterment of this country. We have no other choice but to do it.”
Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson was not present at the press conference, but Maynard said the organizations had been considering the merger for over a year.
Maynard described the move as critical for the survival of the unions.
“All the unions basically have problems and nobody’s settling them,” he said.
He added, “A lot of these problems are workable. You just need to put the time in to get it done.”
Asked for a timeline on the merger, Maynard said, “We start today to do it and my hope is in the next three to six months it will be done. We have stuff to work out internally on both sides. We just need to do it.”
There is no working name for the umbrella organization, he said.
There has been a recent increase in concerns relating to the state of labor relations in The Bahamas.
In December 2018, more than 40 leaders from 30 unions met with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes in an attempt to calm labor tensions.
However, at the time, TUC General Secretary Tyrone Morris said “nothing meaningful” was achieved during that meeting.
In August 2019, the prime minister and Cabinet met with several union leaders from the public sector.
The meeting was held two days after hundreds of members of the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) marched on Bay Street to the Cabinet office, demanding money they say is owed to them by the government.
Once again, following that meeting, union leaders expressed dissatisfaction.
Yesterday, Maynard said that unions are being “disrespected”.
“Well, you know, our unions are facing massive challenges and without saying too much [t]he perception out there [is] that we are fragmented [and] you are not going to get anything while you are fragmented,” he said.
“We need to merge in order to achieve and get to reach our goal post. Our goal post is to make sure that the workers of this country get their fair share of entitlements and their fair share of what is due to them.”