By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PUBLIC service workers have planned a major withdrawal of services for this morning in protest of the government's unwillingness to immediately give them a $1,200 lump sum payment.
BPSU assistant secretary general Lelotha Coleby confirmed yesterday that at an emergency meeting last night, the workers agreed to meet at the old City Market building off Market Street at 9 o'clock this morning from where they will march downtown to the Cabinet Office.
"There will be a march and this will go on until the BPSU and its members get financial satisfaction and until they show our president the respect he deserves," she said.
Yesterday's meeting was packed with hundreds of workers at BPSU's general meeting hall on East Street South.
The union has been locked in negotiations with the government over a new industrial agreement. The union is demanding a one-time lump sum payment of $1200 for each of its 20,000 or so members. That will cost the government $20m.
Union representatives recently met officials of the Ministry of Finance, including Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest. Finance officials recommended splitting their payment into two lump sums of $600 to be given this month and in December.
However, union members voted on Monday not to a accept a split lump sum payment. They want all the money at the end of this month. They argue they have already accepted a compromise when they agreed to a $1,200 lump sum payment, a drop from their initial $2,400 demand.
Ms Coleby said she hoped Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis would overrule the decision of the Ministry of Finance. Instead, she said when BPSU President Kimsley Ferguson called him this week, the prime minister told him the government lacks the money to pay public servants all the lump sum at one time. Dr Minnis has called for a meeting with all unions on Saturday.
For his part, Labour Director John Pinder said yesterday the BPSU has not yet filed a trade dispute and cannot seek to hold a strike vote - much less go on strike - until it does.
"What would be the trade dispute I'd like to know, because negotiations are ongoing," he said. He noted government workers usually receive lump-sum payments as part of their industrial agreements.