Public sector strikes could be on the way as negotiations hit rocks

By AVA TURNQUEST Tribune Staff Reporter aturnquest@tribunemedia.net DISAPPOINTED public managers are considering taking industrial action over slow-moving labour negotiations, union officials said yesterday. Public Managers Union representative Leslie Munnings said contract talks have languished for more than a year at the three public sector entities the union represents. Mr Munnings said the union is awaiting financial counter-proposals on behalf of some 200 middle managers at Bahamasair, the National Insurance Board, and the College of the Bahamas. Yesterday, it was rumoured that members had staged a sit out at the Linden Pindling International Airport; however it was confirmed that the gathering was only a lunch meeting. Mr Munnings said: "We've discussed all of the other sub-issues like working conditions, grievance situations, hours of work - all of that has been sorted out. "Now we're down to the figures and financial implications and for some reason this information hasn't been forthcoming. We've presented some figures for negotiation purposes but they haven't presented any definitive figures or percentages. "It seems to be that every time we go back to the negotiating table to discuss the contract, the items that cannot seem to reach the table are those financial matters that are going to most impact [members]." Negotiations began in 2010 with NIB, in 2009 with Bahamasair and in 2008 with COB. Mr Munnings said the lack of financial information is a problem in all the negotiations, but particularly in the talks with Bahamasair. In response to the union's financial proposals, Mr Munnings said, negotiators have presented the concept of performance appraisals - but the union is not prepared to discuss the option in the absence of definitive figures. Mr Munnings said: "It really is a bit unfair that members are asked to hold out for so long, meanwhile the cost of living goes up. "These are the few members who serve as a backbone to so many organisations. "When staff is short, they're the ones to keep the system running; when it's the weekend or after hours, these are the very people we can call and rely upon to make the Bahamasair flight get out on time, to keep the testing going at COB, to make sure that persons who are waiting on their cheques to NIB can get processed and handled." Yesterday's meeting was held to update members about the ongoing contract negotiations, specifically with regard to Christmas bonuses. Mr Munnings said members were somewhat disappointed that nothing had been finalised, as they still hope to receive bonuses before the end of the year. While he did not know who alerted the press about yesterday's meeting, Mr Munnings said the union is careful to ensure normal meetings are not mistaken for demonstrations or "undue" industrial action. "But as time progresses, we are considering taking specific actions," Mr Munnings said. "That almost seems like a last recourse now and we're really getting close to that." The PMU became the bargaining agent for 90 managers at NIB in 1997, Mr Munnings said. The union expanded to include 67 managers at Bahamasair in 2006, and 43 managers at COB in 2008. Yesterday, NIB officials maintained the board has been negotiating in good faith with the PMU. Algernon Cargill, NIB director, said the board expects to present a financial counterproposal in "short order". Calls placed to Bahamasair and the College of the Bahamas were not returned.


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