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Minister Says Cooling Off Period Needed Before Strike Is Valid

By DENISE MAYCOCK Tribune Freeport Reporter dmaycock@tribunemedia.net FREEPORT - Although members of the Commonwealth Electrical Workers Union have voted in favour of a strike, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said a "cooling off" period is required before he can certify the strike vote. Grand Bahama Power Company workers took a strike vote on Wednesday at the Department of Labour. Of the 111 workers, 89 voted - 88 voted 'Yes' and one voted 'No.' Minister Foulkes was in Grand Bahama on Thursday in conciliation meetings with CEWU officials and GBPC executives concerning a labour dispute over the termination of a long-time employee. "We met for some three hours and I felt the talks were productive, and another meeting is set for 10am on Monday," he told The Tribune. CEWU president Leslie Lightbourne said they were hoping to receive a strike certificate from the minister on Friday. Mr Lightbourne said the termination was not in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. He said that Power Company CEO Sarah McDonald terminated a 40-year employee last month regarding a minor oil spill incident. "They are saying that the worker was terminated in reference to a section in the government law that speaks about spilling oil to the environment, but we are saying it did not go into the environment," he said. Mr Lightbourne said the oil spill went in the coffer damn, which is a protective concrete enclosure to contain the spill. "That is why they build a coffer damn in case there is a spill, to stop if from going in the environment and so they can clean it up. "But they try to make it seems as if the spill was to the environment and they used that section, and that is where we have a problem," he explained. "In our labour contract that is a minor breach - you get a verbal warning," Mr Lightbourne said. He said that an employee is allowed up to three written letters. After a fourth written letter the individual is then termination. Mr Lightbourne said depending on the outcome of Monday's meeting, the union would decide what steps it would take.

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