By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Philip “Brave” Davis is targeting Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ relationship with Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson after reports he prompted the government’s capitulation to her recent demands.
After the Ministry of Education reportedly initially rebuffed the BUT’s request to delay the start of the January school term by several days, the union directed its request to the Office of the Prime Minister. A source in government told The Tribune a meeting with Dr Minnis prompted the official delay to the reopening of public schools. However, Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd has publicly denied this, saying this choice was made exclusively by the Ministry of Education following a review of its calendar.
The South Beach MP said in December that education officials realised teachers would not observe their usual “two week break” between in-year terms, adding officials viewed it as “unfair” to withhold the usual break period given the current workload of public school educators.
In another instance, Dr Minnis intervened to get BUT a strike certificate after the union leader contacted him, according to Mrs Wilson.
The Department of Labour had initially declined to grant the strike certificate because not all teachers in the country had the chance to vote in a December 2018 strike poll. C H Reeves teachers, affected by conditions at the school, were the only ones that participated. The Department of Labour relied on a similar principle to deny the Bahamas Nurses Union a strike certificate last year. Both unions say the decisions were an abuse of power.
Nonetheless, Labour Director John Pinder told The Tribune he did not recommend that the strike certificate be granted. Labour Minister Dion Foulkes has not said why he issued the certificate to the BUT.
Speaking during his first press conference of the year, Mr Davis said yesterday: “While ignoring the cries of the healthcare professionals and most other labour issues generally, it appears that the leader of the Bahamas Union of Teachers has hypnotised the prime minister and seems to be able to get whatever she wants. All the union leader has to do is go to the prime minister and the instructions are sent down.
“With the education being one of the most pillars in this country, why would Cabinet agree to delay the opening of the school year? How does it benefit the country?
“How does it benefit our children?
“I’m advised that insofar as nurses, doctors and other unions are concerned, their issues are still extant, they are falling on deaf ears so far as the government is concerned.
“I’m advised that very recently that everything that was asked for by (Mrs Wilson) was granted.”
Sources say Dr Minnis has been keen to suppress the labour unrest in the country. He has generally eschewed the more hardline app-roach adopted by several members of his Cabinet.