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Union Still Unsure Over Meeting

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net UNION representatives for Customs and Immigration officers are still on the fence about whether or not to show up to a meeting with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes today. Last month, Trade Union Congress (TUC) president Obie Ferguson confirmed that Mr Foulkes had scheduled a meeting to discuss contract negotiations for January 10, but the unions said the minister had acted arbitrarily, as the 16-day statutory period to resolve a dispute had already passed. A strike vote was passed by union members on December 2, 2011. "The minister is acting outside of his statutory function," said Mr Ferguson. "As their lawyer, I cannot advise (the unions) to do anything outside of the law or that will put them at a disadvantage." Speaking with the Tribune yesterday, Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Unaion (BCIAWU) vice-president Sloane Smith said while the minister scheduled the meeting, the union has never agreed to it. Mr Smith would not confirm whether union representatives would show up, saying: "Tomorrow is another day and we will have to see what happens". In an earlier interview, Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette said union officials seem to be unwilling to negotiate. Mr Symonette, who has ministerial responsibility for both departments, explained that during the last conciliatory meeting, the union gave the impression it was only interested in obtaining a strike certificate. "The role of labour is reconciliation. I trust in the new year, union officials will meet again with the department in an attempt to discuss issues," he said. Among the employees' concerns are: that staff members are not getting hazard pay; that staff are not being confirmed after years of probation without any credible reason; and that employees are repeatedly being disciplined for lateness although contracts state this should not occur more than four times per month.

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