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We Won’T Be Bullied By Unions

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister in the House of Assembly.

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister in the House of Assembly.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday said that neither the government, nor the wider public, would tolerate blackout threats from unions at Bahamas Power and Light as the company plans to offer voluntary separation packages to workers in a “rightsizing” exercise.

“Bahamians are not going to put up with any long, hot summer, and we’re not going to,” Mr Bannister, pictured, said. “I don’t know where it came from, but the Bahamian people will stand up for their right to have some basic amenities in their life, one of those which is electricity.”

Unions representing workers at BPL had threatened it would be “a long, hot summer” as they fumed over planned job cuts. On Friday, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard said lack of government intervention over the problem could see Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis return from a trip to England to a country in darkness.

At a press briefing marking his return from Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings in London yesterday, Dr Minnis said the Ministry of Labour would broker talks between the unions and BPL’s board to reach an amicable resolution to ensure there is no loss of power.

“Electricity is very important to us and we will do everything in our power to ensure there is no loss of power because there are people who are sick and they need power for their medication, the schools use the computer system, it can affect the entire economy and it’s our job as government to protect the economy and protect the quality of life and improve the quality of life of the Bahamian populace,” Dr Minnis said.

The company announced plans last week to cut jobs as automated services are installed over the next 18 months. This angered BPL’a managerial and line staff unions.

BPL Chairperson Darnell Osborne told The Tribune yesterday she expected BPL to launch an investigation into Thursday’s island-wide blackout on New Providence, adding that she planned to meet with union leadership when she returned from leave taken for personal loss.

“I just think that’s irresponsible,” she said concerning blackout threats, “and that was where my conversation was with the union, we don’t need those type of threats. We are not at that stage, we are not in a hostile environment. When we have the details then we will call them in, which will be shortly. I’ve been informally in discussions and calmer heads need to prevail. Let’s wait and see.”

For his part, Mr Maynard said the unions moved to address recent media statements from BPL as there had been no formal communication with bargaining agents.

Mr Maynard said the relationship between BPL and unions was still cordial and professional; however, Friday’s press conference sent a clear message that the union would not hesitate to act in the best interests of its membership.

“It’s just the fact that you can’t continue to be in the papers saying stuff and you haven’t been talking to the union,” he said yesterday. “You gotta talk to the stakeholders. We don’t have any details, we need to sit down and talk about it.

“We’re cordial, we’re professionals. It’s just that we want to know what the plans are, and we will see if we can assist. You can’t be in the paper talking and got me finding stuff out and we right there, it’s not like we’re in another country.”

‘Calmer heads’

Meanwhile, Ms Osborne said officials are still “a matter of weeks” away from crunching the numbers on the “rightsizing” exercise to determine how many of its estimated 1,100 staff will be eligible, insisting it will only feature voluntary severance packages.

“As far as I’m concerned there is not a hostile relationship (with unions),” Ms Osborne continued, “we have enjoyed a cordial one. I spoke with the president (Saturday) and told him I think calmer heads need to prevail. I think they got offended with the announcement or the discussion that there will be a rightsizing of the corporation. As the minister indicated there will not be an irresponsible rightsizing, we’re in the initial stages of considering a voluntary severance package which has been mentioned to the union.”

“It’s a bit premature,” she said.

“Bear in mind we have a number of employees who have reached the 30-year mark. So, it’s not as if you’re putting all these people out to pasture without pension. BEC has quite an attractive pension plan and retirees taken care of quite handsomely. I think the union should be responsible.

“Calmer heads will prevail, we will sit down with the union and work out an amicable solution. We just don’t need to be entertaining threats, that’s not possible, we’re in 2018 in a progressive situation. We need to work together for the betterment of the Bahamian people.”

Minutes after Bahamas Power and Light’s CEO Whitney Heastie outlined steps BPL plans to scale down service disruptions in anticipation of the hot summer, New Providence was struck by an island wide power outage last Thursday.

Mr Heastie mentioned rightsizing efforts at that press conference.

However, Mr Maynard said the disruption in service was due to an explosion at substation eight in the Blue Hills Plant.

“Well that’s what they say,” Ms Osborne said yesterday when asked whether BPL had launched an investigation, “the public will judge. I’m on leave but I’m thinking that there will be or they have been investigating it.”

Ms Osborne added: “In order to progress we have to rightsize the corporation. We have 1,100 staff almost. When you start to automate there are changes that need to be made. We have people who are ready, several people have approached me who are prepared. We’re moving ahead. We want to make sure it’s done in the best possible position so Bahamian people and business are not affected. We can’t say numbers just yet, we may get more than we need to get, we may have to refuse persons.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Of course the Minnis-led FNM government will be bullied by the unions. The union leaders are low-life thugs, much like the gaming web shop bosses, and they have observed how easy it is for Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers to bully government in order to get whatever they want. The persuasive currency of the union leaders is 'votes' whereas cold cash is the preferred persuasive currency of Bastian and Flowers.

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OMG 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I'm getting worried, I have to agree with you wholeheartedly.

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concernedcitizen 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I don,t recall it being the FNM who legitimized the numbers houses

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Well_mudda_take_sic 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Oh, please! There is nothing at all legitimate about the illegal activities of the gaming web shops run by the racketeering low-life thugs like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers. The fact that the corrupt Christie-led PLP government wrongfully tried to 'legalize' their money-laundering and other criminal activities against the wishes of Bahamian voters as expressed in a national referendum, does not for one moment justify the Minnis-led FNM government's dreadful failure to shut down all of these illegal and most harmful enterprises.

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Craig 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Racketeering low-life thugs is a perfect description of these people!! They are criminals that should have been jailed and their asset ceased. No, we here in the Bahamas have to tout them as brilliant businessmen who saw an opportunity, never mind an illegal opportunity at the time, and took advantage of it.

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DDK 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Mudda is quite right! This Government just pretends the vermin shops are not there!

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bogart 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Many struggling Bahamians, sick at home .in bed, bedridden little children sick, paralized Bahsmians, many ill persons..... diabetics, glaucoma, cancer ans many struggling to pay electrivity bills, sacrificing, borrowing, lining up in long lines to pay to have water from the electric pump where no piped water infrastructure....water to bathe and clean babies....elderly....flush toilet.....electricity for stove...........and yinna who enjoy big salaries making plenty overtime enjoy job benefits and overstaffed.....dare threaten to cut tha electricity We paying yinna for....so yinna can argue wid government?????.....and tell Roc wid Doc see biggest boldest headline Saturday April 21, 2018 Nassau Guardian Headline 'WARPATH BPL UNIONS DOUBLE DOWN, THREATEN PM' ... Govt 35 to 4 needs to declare national emergency call in the military and jail every one of those involved. Noone particularly in hurricane prone etc Bahamas should be allowed to use any essential services to threaten the elderly, ill, infirm. Lil children... people, our businesses, our stability, our foreign guests, ....and that also goes to the airline people who like to threaten round Christmas time.......IF YINNA UNIONS HAVE A GRIEVANCE PAY YALL MONEY AND CALL UP YINNA LAWYER TO SOLVE YINNA PROBLIMS ACT LIKE MEN STEAD A COWARDS,!!...and threaten wid cutti g off electricity to specially the weak, little children, suffering, strugglling, ill, handicapped!!!!

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DDK 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Need to pull a Regan ATC action.

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Sickened 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Agreed. They need to make the unionizing of essential services illegal! Give them a years notice and tell the unions they are done.

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sheeprunner12 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Paul Maynard and the other BEC union leader must be put on the watch list and their cellphones monitored and their emails tapped etc. ...... they are potential domestic terrorist leaders .......... This kind of threat cannot be taken lightly and NO BEC worker should want to identify with that kind of coarse language, thuggery and treasonous behaviour.

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joeblow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Strong armed gestapo like tactics of unions have no place in a modern Bahamas. They (in their current form) are a major hindrance to real national and personal development!

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licks2 7 months, 4 weeks ago

The government must treat this threat as a national security issue. . .HOLD THE UNION PRESIDENT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY POWER SABOTAGE. . .he made the public threat. . .if they want civil war. . .GIVE IT TO THEM!!! ILO will condemn his statement in all international arena!!

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realfreethinker 7 months, 4 weeks ago

The BPL union is another criminal empire run by a crime boss He ought to be charged with sedition

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Craig 7 months, 4 weeks ago

A threat of sabotage to a critical national infrastructure is tantamount to a threat of terrorism and should be treated as such. The AG should file charges immediately. Jail these people!!!

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DDK 7 months, 4 weeks ago

On leave with a union threatening to sabotage The Country's electrical service and explosions at a major plant?

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hrysippus 7 months, 4 weeks ago

A Union can oft be led by a self-serving lout, . . . . . .. .. One given much to posturing and a tendency to shout, . . . .. .... That their role is most important even vital they will say, . . . . ... So give us lots of money or we go on strike today, . . . . . ..... But if you look real close at that union leaders hands, . . . . ... Soft unused to work like their unused dry sweat glands, . . . . . ..... Those with calluses on their hands who work sweating in the sun, . . . ..... Pay large salary and benefits to just such a lazy one. . . . . .... And if later elected to a government post, .. . . . . . . . The, All for me, Baby, will be the boast, . . . . .. .. ... The most corrupt ministers we ever had, . . . . . . .. Were once union leaders, I think that's sad.

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Bonefishpete 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I guess you are all going to find out who runs Barter Town.

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Socrates 7 months, 4 weeks ago

we won't be bullied? lets wait and see. gov't always talks big then when the unions call their bluff, they give them everything including the kitchen sink.. thats why they behave the way they do.. they're used to having their way and callng the shots.. need to thank SLOP and AD.. started with them..

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