Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kimsley Ferguson said yesterday it was “irresponsible” of Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest to announce that the government was putting its planned lump sum payments to union members on hold in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
Ferguson said the executive board felt slighted that the position wasn’t communicated to the union ahead of time.
On Tuesday, Turnquest told reporters that while the government is still considering the payments, given the devastation caused by the Category 5 storm, the union will have to wait.
“As you all know, this is a significant, unexpected event for the government and so we have to make sure that we properly budget and consider all of the ramifications for our expenditure over the next couple of months for sure, until we have determined and are willing to put concrete numbers on what our outlook is going to look like. So, at the moment it’s on hold and we’ll see how we can adjust it, maybe looking towards the end of the year that we can maybe fit it in,” Turnquest told reporters.
“Certainly, there’s no lack of desire to want to do it. I think we’ve demonstrated that it’s a bit of being practicable and reasonable within the commitments and expected expenditure outlays that the government will have to make over the next couple of months to meet the needs of this devastating storm.”
Last month, hundreds of members of BPSU marched on Bay Street to the Cabinet Office, demanding money they say is owed to them by the government.
The union is requesting salary increases, lump sum payments and salary reviews for its members.
“I am of the view that the deputy prime minister’s comments were irresponsible, in that he divulged information and failed to have dialogue and consultation with the Bahamas Public Services Union, which is a blatant disrespect to the workers of this country, the members of the union and to this executive team,” Ferguson told Guardian Business yesterday.
“We expect if there’s going to be any information given to the general public, that we as the bargaining agent for the members of the public service would be given the opportunity to contribute to the dialogue and to have input, so we were really taken back when we heard his comments. And we’re expecting that at some point the deputy prime minister would do the decent thing in being very apologetic to us as the key stakeholders in this particular venture.”
The BPSU has reportedly proposed a $250 base salary increase per month in the first year, a lump sum payment of $2,500 in the second year and another $200 pay raise per month for its members in the third year.
While it waits to finalize an agreement with the government, Ferguson said the union is focused on providing relief to the nearly 500 union members that were impacted by Dorian on Grand Bahama and Abaco, which he said accounts for 25 to 35 percent of its membership base.