By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE country’s waste management system could face a crisis ahead of the holiday season as employees of Bahamas Waste Limited have announced plans to hold a strike vote as early as next week amid ongoing industrial issues.
During a press conference at the House of Labour yesterday, Bahamas General Workers Union (BGWU) President Dr Thomas Bastian warned workers were now ready to “park those trucks” at any moment in protest of minimal medical provisions and alleged hazardous conditions.
Dr Bastian earlier this week confirmed the BGWU was now the primary bargaining agent for workers at Bahamas Waste Ltd and has been granted leave to negotiate an industrial agreement on their behalf.
Workers claim they have, on several occasions over the past two years, petitioned the company to discuss shortfalls and substandard procedural practices.
On Wednesday, The Tribune published claims by three employees who detailed a company culture that placed employees in conditions they at some point have protested.
Dr Bastian told reporters yesterday: “In March of this last year, a number of (workers) wrote a memorandum to the company, management that is, requesting a meeting to express their concerns about the hazardous conditions, no increases and other conditions of employment. The management held a meeting, and I am informed by (the workers) that management told them in a meeting, ‘don’t raise anything about any increases or benefit’ and shut them down.”
He continued: “So there is no platform to which the workers have to raise question about the conditions of employment on their side where the management may not know, because once they are drivers, they leave the company driving and out there, they face all sorts of difficulty.
“So the union was consulted by them. They joined the union. As a result of that, we move to ask for recognition. They refused our recognition. They went to the court on two occasions to de-certify the union from registration and they lose on every occasion. And they are still refusing today to meet.”
According to Dr Bastian and various documents provided, Bahamas Waste Ltd requested an extension on the Department of Labour’s initial ruling which mandated its management team meet with the union within 45 days.
That extension, which was granted, provided the company with an additional 33 days to meet with the union.
That subsequent deadline was also allowed to pass.
Dr Bastian said the BGWU was finally approached by Bahamas Waste Ltd last Friday and presented with a bargaining document that was absent both pay and benefits schedules.
“They only want to shoot marbles,” he asserted.
Dr Bastian added the union wrote to Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes on December 5 saying Bahamas Waste employees have requested an official to oversee a strike vote at the House of Labour on December 15.
Dr Bastian said once the union gets a certificate of a vote in favour of the union taking action, “between now and (the end of) December, if things doesn’t go right, that company may be in a little bit of difficulty and the workers may park those trucks, walk off them and hit the picket line.”
He added: “I don’t know when that will be, but we will come to them like Nicodemus in the night. They won’t know when we take action until they wake up in the morning and find us in the streets.”
When contacted for comment yesterday, Bahamas Waste Limited’s Managing Director Francisco de Cardenas said the firm was preparing a statement for release.
The Tribune did not receive a statement up to press time.