By NICOLE BURROWS
I noticed that our prime minister kept a low profile this past week. That’s unusual to me.
Does any first world leader go more than a week without addressing the people in at least one public forum? I thought Mr Christie’s plate was full as the leader of the free Bahamas. Was I mistaken? Does he not have enough work to do?
And nothing from the second in command, Mr Davis? What about Mr Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Mr National Security? Why so silent?
Too much fun with that New York trip… at our expense?
Bahamas Gone Wild? No captain at the wheel?
Well, when you awake from your naps, please chime in. The people await your governance (for nearly three years now).
In the meantime, I’ll just jump on the labour minister until Mr Christie returns to centre stage with more of his fantabulous quotes.
Said Shane Gibson: “I don’t know how many work permit holders they have at Scotiabank, right… and I personally find it very disturbing, when you could let go or agree to consider letting 50 Bahamians go and to not ask us to cancel one single work permit. And so, I, I, it would have, you know, been, you know, acceptable to us if you would at least say, okay, I… and I don’t know like I say how many work permit holders they have but if they would say we have one, two, or three work permit holders, um, we need to let go 50 Bahamians, and we ask you now to withdraw, um, this one work permit holder because we no longer need them.”
Why does Minister Gibson not know how many work permit holders are in Scotiabank’s employ in the Bahamas, when, according to him, he only recently communicated with them on this very issue, and the fact that they’re letting go 50 Bahamians is a significant part of his argument?
Wouldn’t that knowledge prompt you to ask how many Bahamians work there? And wouldn’t the answer to that question move you further to ask (if you didn’t already know) how many employees work there in total, and, by extension, how many are on work permit? I mean, if you were doing your job effectively, as minister of labour, wouldn’t you want those answers before you leave the meeting, at least by the end of the day, so that when you give the journalist an interview on the very same subject, you can speak as an informed person?
Or, does Mr Gibson already know how many work permit holders are employed by Scotiabank (Bahamas), but prefers to pretend he doesn’t? Because, you know, the more you say you don’t know the less we believe you.
Minister Gibson is a mirror image of the trade unions he represents, which, in their current forms should, frankly, be abolished and rebirthed.
Why do the trade union members always come across as an angry mob of people with the handout syndrome and “gumma sumpn” mentality? Do they do anything besides whine and beg for more money and eternal employment? Could they do something useful and organise themselves into real associations of skilled persons, a more purposeful unit of people who, instead of constantly complaining about their leadership on one hand and low pay on the next, are striving for and showcasing excellence? Are the women and men of these unions taking courses and other firm, deliberate (and legal) measures to develop themselves, to become more professionally and intellectually polished, more improved, and more competitive, so that they are worth the more money they keep asking for?
Scotiabank is a private, for-profit, foreign-based banking business. They would be, in theory, well within their right to hire whomever they choose (barring any other specific and binding agreement). I hardly think a government could challenge their rationale, even if written in prior agreement. They also have a right to do what they think is needful to increase profits (their bottom line) and decrease costs. They have the right to pick up and leave when they choose, shutting down a few thousand jobs in one go, if necessary.
Now, I would be lying if I said I didn’t think Scotiabank (and other large employers usually of foreign origin) didn’t have a predisposition to hire “foreign” versus “local”. Their argument remains that many locals are not qualified for top-level positions in their company. While this – a lack of qualified labour in The Bahamas – may sometimes be a very legitimate thing, I think that too many employment ads are deceitfully placed when the employers already have external applicants to fill the positions. We see it all the time; companies decide to hire someone and they place an ad for the position because the law requires this, when, meanwhile, someone has already paid off one or more people to get a work permit fast tracked and approved without hesitation or consideration. I have had more than one person on the inside of Scotiabank tell me their job ads are already spoken for, but Scotiabank is certainly not the only bank or business doing this.
For example, which Bahamian do you know speaks five languages fluently, as requested a few weeks back in a February Point ad for a concierge, the first version of which required a super lingual applicant, later replaced by an ad not-so-obviously anti-Bahamian?
Still, Scotiabank – and any private enterprise – is well within their right to hire whomever they choose. And even if they were top-heavy on work permit holders, would it really make sense to arbitrarily dismiss one work permit holder per every 50 Bahamians let go, as Mr Gibson suggests, just to keep a “balance”?
As for the comment Mr Gibson made that Scotiabank got all the best years in The Bahamas from their patrons… well, maybe Mr Gibson, you and your team could seek to negotiate better deals with banks and other conglomerates for/on behalf of the Bahamian people. If you’d done that before now, maybe the Bahamian people wouldn’t feel so ridden and raped.
“It is disappointing to customers first of all and secondly it is disappointing to workers who, um, would have spent in some cases many years at Scotiabank and would have really not looking forward to being made redundant,” Mr Gibson said last week.
Does anyone look forward to being made redundant? Yet, it’s the nature of things in business. And, you can often see it coming. But you mean to tell me all of these workers, whether knowing their company’s business, the economic landscape, or their own work habits or status, didn’t see it coming? And, moreover, they didn’t have backup plans?
Nothing is guaranteed, so if they had/have no plan, then it’s really on them, isn’t it? And you, too, by the way, for not making it possible for them to live a life other than “day-to-day”.
“All I’m saying is this seems to be more of the fashion these days where employers, um, seem to have (a) very easy time even though they say it’s difficult for them, they seem to have (a) very easy time making employees redundant. I think all of them are now being driven by not what service they could provide to the community, but they’re being driven by their bottom line.”
Mr Gibson says it seems like employers make employees redundant because it’s the “in” thing to do.
The “fashion” you refer to Mr Gibson, is called an economic downturn, the aftermath of recession, waning of prosperity, shifting tides in business, etc, which, in great part, is made worse by the fact that this little economy is still heavily and foolishly dependent on banking (and tourism) for its basic survival.
Had your forebears made other adjustments sooner, employees today wouldn’t have to be worried about being made redundant, because they’d be enterprising people… entrepreneurs of all sorts who would understand that making a living isn’t just collecting a paycheck but making a real life for yourself, one that draws on innovation and creative enterprise, not “massah”-slave dependencies.
And isn’t it a little unfair to say “all of them” are driven by their bottom line? To be truthful, isn’t Scotiabank one of the biggest community givers in Nassau and The Bahamas? It seems like every week I open a newspaper, no matter which paper, no matter what section, there’s a photo of a Scotiabank official smiling while giving money to some charity or sponsoring some community event. Granted, I hardly think this is philanthropic giving from the goodness of their hearts, as I’m sure all those charitable deductions help to diminish taxes owed on repatriated funds in their homeland. But you can’t honestly say that Scotiabank does not give, even if they give to get.
“We are satisfied that… that… they’re compensating them, but then it’s all relative, because the way the law is now, I mean it speaks to how, how much you are compensated.”
“I think it just, um, helps us to understand more, why we have to look at revising our laws in The Bahamas to make sure that if employers are now looking more and more about making employees redundant, um, in this fashion, then we have to make sure that employees, after putting in many years in these establishments would be properly compensated,” the minister said.
But Mr Gibson, you said you’re satisfied they’re compensating them, as the law speaks to how much they are to be compensated… a law, I’m guessing, you have not hastened to modify. But it must be changed, now, to make sure employees who are made redundant are properly compensated? But didn’t you just say that they were, and that you were satisfied with it?
One mouth, two voices. Big surprise.
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