By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard yesterday said the union has decided to be the “bigger person” in its feud with BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller and stop the work-to-rule it began earlier this week.
Mr Maynard told The Tribune of the union’s decision after a meeting was held between BEWU members, Director of Labour Robert Farquharson, BEC Assistant Manager Marisa Mason-Smith, and a government negotiator at the Department of Labour yesterday morning.
He also said he would hold the government “personally responsible” if one of the BEWU’s members “gets killed” as a result of revelations of personal information such as the workers’ salaries and bonuses.
The decision comes after Mr Maynard announced on Tuesday that the BEWU would be operating on work-to-rule and not work overtime because of Mr Miller’s refusal to sign a new industrial agreement with the BEWU that has already been negotiated.
Mr Miller has said he has concerns about the new contract relating to requests for lump sum payments and issues over rostering.
On Tuesday, Mr Maynard said the union was seeking a strike vote which would have meant a “black Christmas” for the Bahamas.
Mr Maynard yesterday said the BEWU had reversed its decision to lobby for a strike poll and was not going to “put that kind of pressure on the company” by continuing its industrial action.
“We have lifted the work to rule because we’re going to show maturity and we’re going to be the bigger ones in here, and we’re going to be responsible,” Mr Maynard told The Tribune. “We’re not going to put that kind of pressure on the company, but what we expect is the government to give us our due. We negotiated with them, and we expect them to honour what we negotiated.
“We also informed the director that we want absolutely and totally nothing whatsoever to do with Leslie Miller. We don’t even want to talk to him. Nothing to do with him. We cannot work with him. That’s my conclusion. What he did on the radio yesterday (Wednesday), we are never going to be able to work with him. So they better send someone else because we aren’t talking to him anymore.”
Mr Maynard was referring to comments Mr Miller made on 96.9 FM’s “Let’s Talk Live”.
On Tuesday, about 100 BEWU members demonstrated outside BEC’s main office and got into a heated confrontation with Mr Miller as he got out of his car. The two parties exchanged insults and angry words over Mr Miller’s refusal to ratify the union’s industrial contract.
At the protest, Mr Maynard said if Mr Miller was unwilling to pay them for overtime, they would not work overtime – to the “detriment of the Bahamian people.” He also said he would no longer tolerate disrespect from the Tall Pines MP.
However, Mr Miller has said he would rather “resign” from parliament than sign a contract that is “not in the best interest of the people.”
Last year, Mr Miller said BEC was on the brink of collapse as a result of paying a handful of employees millions in overtime. He added that $2,393,152.99 was paid to 10 employees.
One employee in particular, Mr Miller said, accumulated $421,361.66 in overtime in a five-year period, with a base salary of $49,547.
At the time, Mr Miller expressed concerns that salaries and bonuses at the corporation had been putting an unnecessary burden on the backs of Bahamians. He also said BEC’s employees had for years been holding a “gun” to the government’s head with their demands for exorbitant pay.
On Tuesday, Mr Miller said he did not care if the workers protested and said if they went on strike, he would do what “needs to be done to keep the lights on.”
He also said in an earlier interview that if it were up to him Mr Maynard would be “fired on the spot” for threatening Bahamians. He said Mr Maynard’s attempt to disrupt the holidays should not be taken lightly by Bahamians and business owners.
Yesterday, Mr Maynard said the union was “disgusted” at Mr Miller for his “blatant disregard for the lives (of employees) at BEC.”
“We told the director (of labour) to let this minister and the government know, that I will hold them personally responsible if one of my members get killed as a result of the nonsense, information and the misinformation (about salaries) that they put out,” Mr Maynard said. “This union is not going to deal or co-operate with Leslie Miller, because he is rude, disrespectful, and we want nothing to do with him. Nothing whatsoever. People at BEC are very agitated and it’s just been a tumultuous two years since he came in as chairman. He demoralised the staff.”