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T.U.C. President Speaks Out

TUC president Obie Ferguson

TUC president Obie Ferguson

By SANCHESKA BROWN

Tribune Staff Reporter

sbrown@tribunemedia.net

TRADE UNION Congress President Obie Ferguson said yesterday there is “nothing” the government can do to stop the “withdrawal of labour” of hundreds of unionised and non-unionised workers in the coming days.

Speaking with The Tribune, Mr Ferguson said a mass rally tonight will inform the workers why the union has decided to strike and also to decide on which days the strike will be called. He suggested there would be two to three days of stoppages.

He said it is “unfortunate” that it has come to this but after years of trying to get the government’s attention, it seems as though it is necessary for “Black Tuesday” to happen again.

“There is nothing the government can do to stop us now. What can they do? We have been sending them letters from 2012 and none of our issues have been worked out.

“The idea is very simple: we have tried over and repeatedly to make the point that the Industrial Relations Act and the Employment Act as it stands is not progressive, it creates ambiguity and its a minefield, in my opinion, for unnecessary litigation. There are a whole range of issues that need to be addressed,” Mr Ferguson said.

“The only thing the government seems to understand is if we close the country down. That’s the only time they wanna talk and we wanted to talk from 2012. So at this point meeting with the minster is not going to help us. It is too late for talk, what could they do? They want to see how much people we going to get out there and we will show them.

“The purpose of this meeting is to inform the workers as to what the issues are and for them to understand why there needs to be a recess of about two to three days. We will also make the determination tonight when they will strike. So this withdrawal of labour will involve all unions, all workers, this is not just a union thing. This work stoppage will involve everyone.”

The national rally will be held at St Gregory’s Anglican Church at 7pm. Mr Ferguson’s TUC covers some 20-plus trade unions with a collective membership of 15,000 workers across the Bahamas.

Mr Ferguson said one of the union’s unresolved issues is the definition of a work week as it relates to vacation days and sick days. 

He said: “The act defines a work week as seven days; there is no provision for a five-day work week but when an employee takes a vacation they are given five days and not seven. According to the Employment Act the employee should be getting seven days and not five so it creates a problem. If the employee is getting a week’s vacation or taking a sick week they should be paid for seven days as opposed to five, so these are some of the things we are going to talk about.”

Labour Minister Shane Gibson said if the union is determined to strike the government will not stand in the way of democracy. “If that’s what they want to do, then that’s what they will do,” he said. “They told you we can’t stop them but we weren’t trying to, not in this democratic nation. Anytime you hear about persons withdrawing their labour you think about the negative impact. We understand what they want to and if it was my choice, I would prefer that work not be interrupted in the country.”

According to Mr Ferguson there are pending industrial agreements for The Bahamas Nurses Union, Bahamas Doctors Union, Bahamas Educators Managerial Union, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, Bahamas Customs and Immigration and Allied Workers Union, Commonwealth Hotel Services and Workers Union, Bahamas Water and Sewage Management Union, Electric Utility Management Union, Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers and The Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association.

Comments

newcitizen 8 years ago

This whole work week thing is just ridiculous. It's the amount you get paid over a 7 day period, not the amount you get paid each day times 7. It's not confusing. Why would you ever think that cause you went on vacation for a week you should be getting a daily pay for the weekend? Do you normally work the weekend? You get what you would normally get paid for work that happened within a week (7 days). So if you normally only work 3 days and get paid $300, then on your eek long holiday, you get $300, not $700. That would be crazy.

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Tarzan 8 years ago

And what is shocking about union demands being totally ridiculous?

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Tarzan 8 years ago

...and why not follow this ludicrous reasoning to it's logical conclusion. A union man works for $15 per hour, eight hours a day, for five days a week. That results in compensation of $600 per week.

The law states a week's vacation with pay. That is 7 days times 24 hours or 168 hours at $15 per hour, resulting in vacation pay of $2,520 per week. Isn't that where this ridiculous logic takes you?

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BoopaDoop 8 years ago

Sounds similar to B.E.C. employees double dipping when claiming from N.I.B. and also getting full pay. Why should an employee receive more money than their weekly pay. If you get paid x amount for the week, why would you expect to receive x plus two days for a vacation week?

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B_I_D___ 8 years ago

Anybody with any common sense, which apparently Obie lacks, knows that the way the law was written, and the 'spirit' of the law is that whatever you put into your work week, is what you get back out...if you work 5 days and have 2 days rest, your vacation week is 5 days with your same 2 days off. Within that week however you split up your work time and your time off, that's what you get paid...if you actually only work 24 hours...3 days out of the week and have 4 days off, you only get paid for 3 days vacation, but you still get the 7 day week period, but your pay portion of that week is the hours you put into it. Now, can the law be better written or defined, yes, and it probably needs to be reviewed, but don't twist and contort things that you know you can poke at and exploit out of some sort of non-commonsensical ambiguity.

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birdiestrachan 8 years ago

Go ahead Mr. Ferguson and shut the Country down. and see what you will accomplish by doing so. The economy of the Bahamas is bad enough. but if you want to make it worse go ahead. Persons who work for private business may very well find themselves unemployed... At the end of the day your money will be in the bank..

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sheeprunner12 8 years ago

Bahamians have little appetite for politicians and even less for unions......... both are leeches. Its sad that it has come to this......... most people just trying to breathe now

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bismark 8 years ago

I know the government drags their foot in everything,but this strike,it will garner their attention but we will be hurting an already fragile economy,unions are destroying this country with their excessive demands,well you reap what you sow the government was in bed with them before the last election now its on them.

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John 8 years ago

A minister of the gospel predicted (foretold) that there would be riots in the streets of the Bahamas in the matter of months. This was sometime in February and since everything seemed calm and under control (somewhat) at that time many did not take him seriously and some even suggested that he was talking out of his head. Now just a few short weeks later things are heating up on all fronts and a massive showdown on the streets of New Providence seems most certain: The governing party has taken certain action that the opposition finds offensive and a violation of citizens rights. They have called a rally to oppose and cry out against the behavior of the government. The government has called press conferences to maintain that their actions were within the mandate to govern the country and are standing firm in their position, they are blaming the press for salacious reporting, crime is escalating, the unions are threatening to shut the country down and many the average Bahamian is clueless as to what is going on. There is never a good time for any country to get to a level of street clashes and the present is definitely no time to incite civil unrest in the Bahamas. Once you get to that level where citizens begin to battle with each other, no one knows where it will end. Persons will use the opportunity to carry out their own selfish agendas. Someone must exercise a degree of levelheadedness and do what is good for the country and for citizens who do not need to be caught up in the crossfire of civil unrest and violence. Who is going to be the real nationalist and head this situation off? Or will all the leaders continue to grandstand and have a showdown?

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John 8 years ago

Can someone pleeze tell me what college this man graduated from. He is saying when an employee works works for five days a week or forty hours, but when that same employee is sick or takes vacation that same employee must be paid for 7 days or 56 hours. Either you need to be dumb to be a union leader or you will 'ack' dumb when you want to bring labor unrest in the country and pull workers off their jobs. THE SAD TING ABOUT THIS IS THAT WORKERS WHO CAN LEAST AFFORD TO LOSE THEIR JOBS ARE THE FIRST ONES FIRED.

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John 8 years ago

ARE UNIONS BIBLICAL? "We need to start with work. God is a worker. He designed us to be workers.

"Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work...For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Ex, 20:9, 11

"He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster." Pr. 18:9

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Ecc. 9:10

It is God's desire that we all work. Unions have come in to organize the workers to achieve certain goals. Some companies have abused their employees and unions have stood up for the helpless. In a sinful world there will always be abuses, but the question is: How does God expect us to handle abuses? Are Unions the correct response? Whose responsibility is it to handle workplace abuses? We will Scripturally answer these questions.

Unions may represent a group of employees and negotiate a contract with an employer to their mutual benefit. However, if the union uses tactics to try and force an employer to give more than he is willing to give then we have a sinful, unBiblical, oppressive situation. No Christian should support such activity which is actually criminal extortion.

This means that strikes are totally wrong. No Christians should ever vote for a strike for any reason. Any job action designed to hurt the employer's business or force him in a contract against his will is sin. If employees feel they cannot work under the conditions offered, they have the right quit - all at once if they wish. However, they cannot complain if the employer finds other employees who are willing to work under his conditions.

The employer is in charge of his business as long as he is not violating a mutually agreed upon contract. This means that unions have no right to try to control any aspect of the employer's actions as long as they are not criminal or contract violations. The employer has the right to promote whomever he wishes regardless of seniority. If the employer wants to give someone a raise or a bonus above the contract wage, that is his right. As long as he is not paying anyone below the contract rate there is no problem."

Free -Bible-Study-Com

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vgutyio 8 years ago

I will agree with you that labor unions are not biblical. But hear this, once the folly of allowing unions to take a hold of a society and its employment system is established, it is next to impossible to remove or fix. Anyone that touches it will cause hell fire to rise up and consume the entire country with the “wrath” of the workers. As the old black book would say “folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place”.

If you look close enough at reality you will notice “servants riding upon horses” and “princes walking as servants upon the earth”. The old black book is still as true as gravity itself.

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John 8 years ago

Ok let me see if I follow Mr. Obie Ferguson's logic: The workers who strike will be off the job for 2 or 3 days. So according to the way he understands the employment act, those workers should be deducted for 3 or 4.5 days respectively, based on the assertion that compensation for the work week is based on seven days and not five.

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John 8 years ago

**THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN: The first union, as you may know, was formed in heaven by Lucifer himself. He tried to rally up all the other angels to support him in his conflict with God. One third of the angels joined up with Satan and were eventually cast down from heaven. .

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) said in his sermon, Wisdom Displayed in Salvation, "Satan and his angels rebelled against God in heaven, and proudly presumed to try their strength with his. And when God, by his almighty power, overcame the strength of Satan, and sent him like lightning from heaven to hell with all his army; Satan still hoped to get the victory by subtilty".[7] . .

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Modern Bible commentaries, in general, view the "war in heaven" in Revelation 12:7-13 as an eschatological vision of the end of time or as a reference to spiritual warfare within the church, seeing it as "not (as in Milton's Paradise Lost) the story of the origin of Satan/Lucifer as an angel who rebelled against God in primeval times."[3] Some Christian commentators have seen the war in heaven as "not literal" but symbolic of events on earth.[4][5]"

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