By Malcolm Strachan
BAHAMAS Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) president Paul Maynard unleashed a fiery rebuke of the Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) management last week when execs at the utility company said they would be downsizing, effectively making 233 people redundant over an 18-month period.
This misguided attack ruffled more than a few feathers, as Bahamian people were irate hearing they would be the casualties of a war led by union heads Paul Maynard and Anthony Christie. Maynard’s threat of it being a “long, dark and hot summer” allude to tampering and sabotage on the part of BPL workers, which opens a whole other can of worms. He also, in effect, called the Minister of Works a liar, saying he should be the person asked about BPL’s capability for the gruelling summer loads at the power company. Desmond Bannister’s claim that BPL would be ready for the summer was trumped by Maynard during his press conference last Friday.
While this duelling between union heads, executives at utility companies and ministers is not unfamiliar, it always seems to affect Bahamian citizens the worst. The truth is Maynard’s bold threat would inconvenience the less fortunate who may not be able to afford a generator. And what about the businesses that operate daily – from mom and pop stores to established franchises throughout the island? How are those business owners expected to pay their power bills when they cannot operate their businesses?
You see, this level of “crabs in a barrel” thinking where we attack our own to send a message is one of the biggest contributors to where we are as a nation. How dare Mr Maynard think it is okay to cause Bahamian people suffering to prove a point that the union will not stand for employees to lose their jobs? Companies are downsized around the world at a rapid clip, and for good reason. When organisations aren’t running at peak efficiency, it is incumbent upon those in authority to trim fat where and when necessary.
If we were to consider the number of individuals hired at our government-owned corporations through political favours, certainly we would be baffled by what we find. Therefore, it is necessary for the BPL management team to follow its mandate to ensure the corporation runs more efficiently and do what it must to achieve those results. Unfortunately, in this case, it will lead to approximately 233 people losing their jobs, which could be a lot worse considering the company is overstaffed by more than a thousand employees.
Notwithstanding the fact the economic times we live in do not create the ideal scenario for one to lose a job, Maynard’s untimely rant has done more to hurt the cause of those he represents, as it will not find many sympathisers.
It is also doubtful his threats to the prime minister arriving back from London in darkness will bring cooler heads to the negotiating table. Rather, it has caused many people to take to social media circles and voice their anger towards the union boss’ statements.
As far as the prime minister goes, he hardly responds to much lately, so this will more than likely be ignored. As for the Works Minister, Desmond Bannister - who has now been called a liar to the Bahamian people - he will likely have some explaining to do. Is BPL ready for the summer months, or not?
Amid the various questions that will be asked as this latest controversy has now taken centre stage, perhaps the most prevalent question is, “Has Maynard lost his marbles?”
To think he will wage war with BPL by sabotaging the country’s power supply and walk among us is either the ambition of a wildly brave or severely reckless man. Perhaps he should consider if those within his union are top performers at BPL because we are hard-pressed in finding the sense in defending workers who underperform on the taxpayers’ dime and insult the Bahamian people by threatening them with such drastic inconveniences.
While we do not know who would be made redundant or why, it is entirely in management’s authority to make such a decision. To that end, Maynard’s first consideration ought to be if these employees were doing a good job – not how he would shut down the country if they are let go.
It is this sort of bluster that should be condemned outright. Bahamian people need not suffer for Maynard to earn brownie points with his union members. If his concern for people’s livelihood was truly centred on Bahamian citizens being negatively impacted, there is no way his utterances should have been as tactlessly communicated.
Although Education Minister Jeff Lloyd received backlash for his sharp commentary on the deadweight being employed in his ministry, he had the right idea. If a person does not do the job they’re obligated and paid to do, they are the ones who assume the risk. While we should also condemn people being fired for unjust causes, unions raising hell to thwart any attempt by the government to create efficiencies where they may be lacking should never stand in our great country.
Retorts from Desmond Bannister and the BPL executive team are sure to come following last week’s eruption.
Though this fight seems as it has a few rounds to go, we certainly hope people are dealt with fairly if BPL proceeds with its rightsizing plans.