By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The prime minister was yesterday urged to ensure Bahamians “have first rights” on all outsourcing opportunities at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) if downsizing continues.
Dino Rolle, pictured, the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union’s (BCPOU) president, told Tribune Business he also requested that the Government use its 49 percent equity stake and three BTC board seats to improve any future voluntary separation packages that may be offered to the carrier’s staff.
Mr Rolle said he made his requests at the side of yesterday’s meeting between the prime minister and multiple trade union leaders, as he warned that the BCPOU will “not sit on our hands for ever” if its grievances are not resolved.
He reiterated that BTC and its chief executive, Garfield “Garry” Sinclair, appear “not to be interested” in addressing union calls to negotiate new industrial agreements along with concerns over job losses stemming from the possible outsourcing of the country’s call centre to other nations.
“One of the things we expressed to the prime minister was that if the company wishes to continue its downsizing they have to revisit the formula of the old VSEPs (voluntary separation packages) since much has changed in the country since they were first implemented in 2011,” Mr Rolle told Tribune Business, “and Bahamians should have first rights to any outsourcing.”
He added that the BCPOU’s efforts to “get back to the table” with BTC over its industrial agreement concerns, following their recent demonstration, had yet to generate the response the union and its members were seeking from the company.
“We are extremely disappointed,” Mr Rolle said. “Since our frustration and agitation, we have sent two e-mails to Mr Sinclair asking him to come back to the table, and Mr Sinclair’s response as always since the day he came here was: ‘I will come back to you in the shortest possible time’.
“That kind of vagueness and no actual date was what caused us frustration in the first place. After we took off our tennis [shoes] and got back to the table, Mr Sinclair seems not to be interested in resolving these outstanding issues.
“He has yet to make an initial reach out to the union. The communication has always been from the union, ourselves in the BCPOU and the BCPMU, to Mr Sinclair, and not a reach out from the management to the union to say come to the table and let’s see how we can move this thing forward down the road.”
Mr Rolle said the union would give Dr Minnis a chance to speak with Dion Foulkes, minister of labour, and address its concerns, but warned: “We don’t intend to sit on our hands for ever.”
He added that yesterday’s meeting with the Prime Minister “wasn’t properly structured”, and there were too many competing voices in the room from multiple trade unions each with different grievances demanding resolution.
The BCPOU chief said he was able to brief Dr Minnis directly on the union’s BTC issues on the side, and added: “He said he would instruct the Minister of Labour to meet with us to resolve our issues. That’s the meeting I’m looking forward to.
“He [the Prime Minister] wanted to hear what the concerns were about given this uprising among unions. What we were asking for is a smaller meeting, smaller groups, so we can put our concerns to government with a view to resolution.”