Opposition leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis in Parliament. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune Staff
By Ricardo Wells
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Philip “Brave” Davis has committed his party to renegotiating the historic 1977 Memorandum of Understanding on labour.
The 1977 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), considered by some to be the impetus for the 1979 amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, entrenched in law certain benefits presently enjoyed by labourers and unionist.
Mr Davis affirmed the Progressive Liberal Party remains “one” with labour at the party’s monthly press briefing on Tuesday.
“This week is a week when we salute Labour and the working men and women of our country. I do so this morning without qualification. I say without fear of contradiction that the PLP and Labour are one. We are joined at the hip. The history and the legacy are clear,” Mr Davis said.
He continued: “Labour and the PLP worked together to bring about the legal changes which we enjoy today which provide a greater measure of social justice in our country. Further, the economic gains that we have made were made because of the work of the PLP and Labour together.”
“We remember today the workers who struck a blow for freedom on 1, June 1942 which the late Sir Randol Fawkes described as the seminal event in the history of Labour rights in the country.
“It was because of that proverbial blow struck on 1, June 1942, called the Burma Road Riots, that we have Labour Day on this weekend.
“I recall specifically our work together with Labour on the general strike of 1958 that provided the immediate impetus for constitutional change in our country.
“I recall the historic Memorandum of Understanding between the Labour movement and the PLP in 1977 that led to the current changes in the Industrial Relations Act, including agency shop.
“I call today for the PLP and Labour to sit and negotiate a new Memorandum of Understanding as we plot the way forward for the rights of working men and women in our country. I am open to sitting with Labour and my colleagues to begin working on such a memorandum,” Mr Davis added.
The Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP went on to announce his intention to march with labourers and unions in the capital on Friday while his deputy, Chester Cooper, marches with labourers and unions in Grand Bahama.
Since labour festivities of last year, several unions have raised issues relative to industrial agreements and various other grievances.
Those matters prompted Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to host at least two closed door meetings with several unions last December.
The meetings were part of government’s effort to suppress what, at that time, looked to be a burgeoning labour crisis.
When those talks fell flat, Bahamas Public Services Union President Kimsley Ferguson suggested to the press that the country could see a repeat of the 1942 Burma Road Riot “if we continue along this particular vein.”
While the government managed to quell threats of a general strike, many of the underlying grievances raised at that time still persist.
Currently, strike actions are pending with the Bahamas Nurses Union; the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union’s (BHCAWU); both the managers and line staff unions at the Water and Sewerage Corporation; the Bahamas Industrial, Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union, the bargaining agent for workers at Morton Salt; among others.
Just this week, Obie Ferguson, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, described the country’s labour relations climate as “very, very bad,” telling Tribune Business that the “complete disrespect” shown by employers to labour leaders was at the root of many current industrial disputes.