Stormy waters lie ahead for the government – some of them literally – as it tries to keep on track for its deficit target of one percent this year.
One storm it must weather is the hurricane season, hoping that nothing comes our way, but the other storm that seems headed right for the government is the prospect of union disputes.
Peter Turnquest didn’t help matters there yesterday by describing the prospect of negotiations with unions as a “fly in the ointment”. Being dismissed as a troublesome fly won’t help the mood of union leaders as they sit down to try to get an agreement with the government.
One hopes too that the government took into account the “active union negotiating season” when aiming for its one percent target – surely they would have known that unions would have had goals of their own for their members.
After all, it is only a few weeks since Education Minister Jeff Lloyd said he was happy with discussions with the Bahamas Union of Teachers and was aiming to ensure teachers were satisfied – this despite the teachers union leader, Belinda Wilson, saying they were seeking a pay rise of 20 percent. Is that in Mr Turnquest’s figures?
It certainly sounds like he isn’t keen on picking up the phone to Kimsley Ferguson, president of the Bahamas Public Services Union, who says it hasn’t received a response in two and a half months to its proposal for pay changes across the public sector. Brensil Rolle came out firing on that issue, saying the government was negotiating... before admitting it was still working on its counter-proposal.
Meanwhile, over at the Public Hospitals Authority, there are claims from the union that management is stalling over talks – claims the PHA denied.
Negotiations can take a long time, of course, but if Mr Turnquest is right and negotiations are about to step up a gear, it seems Mr Turnquest has made an unwise choice of words.
Starting off by offending the opposite side is no way to encourage goodwill while you’re trying to keep costs down to hit your targets.
We hope negotiators can put such a view behind them – while also hoping that unions will understand the financial position too, perhaps suggesting multi-year rises so as not to take too much in the first year, but building to a fair agreement over time.
We also hope there will be no other unnecessary foot-in-mouth moments. If matters are as delicate as Mr Turnquest says, we can do without further disruption.
A record breaking year for tourism
While there may be trouble brewing in one part of government, another has good news to celebrate. Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar believes The Bahamas is on course to set a new record for visitors. In fact, he thinks we will break the seven million mark this year.
Better yet, the success is being spread around – there are likely to be new records for stopover arrivals and cruise passenger arrivals, and New Providence is headed for a new high mark, but the Family Islands too are also set to exceed their previous best.
Now that is a success we can all be grateful for.