EDITOR, The Tribune
A fossil is a preserved prehistoric organism. There is no better word to describe the president of the Electrical Workers Union, the bellicose and always underwhelming Paul Maynard.
Concerned citizens should start a “Go Fund Me” page to purchase a sweater for Maynard as he has now forecast a cold day in hell if and when the power company modernizes and attempts to provide uninterrupted power to its customers. Well, as Smokey Joe used to say, the perpendicular has just met the contuberance.
Recently the power company made a giant leap forward when it partnered with a respected European company that has entrenched links in the Caribbean to help it build a new facility at Clifton Pier to give Nassauvians two of the things they cherish most – reliable electricity at reasonable cost.
Captain Fossil was having none of it as he gave us another of his puerile temper tantrums which served to demonstrate that he cares nothing about the people he and his workers serve. For him it’s all about the power (excuse the pun) and glory flowing to the union leadership, at all costs.
He promised all-out war this summer and immediately put us on notice that his strategy is to take hostages – us. And, if he doesn’t get his way, he will switch the power off and keep us sweating in our own dark, hot houses this summer. And to prove what?
Maynard is woefully under informed on not only this deal, but also on where his industry is headed. Fossil fuels are harming the planet and their use is on the decline globally. We are embracing environmentally friendly power generating options alongside renewable alternatives such as solar and wind.
Captain Fossil sees this as a threat to his dwindling membership. While his members today may applaud his reckless brinksmanship, young Bahamians watching the sideshow might be appalled at his belligerence and his intransigence.
Wartsila, the Finnish company that will lead the upgrade at Clifton Pier, is not his enemy. They are change agents who he should sit down with to learn just how they co-exist with local unions in places like Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana where they have similar power generating agreements.
He could learn that power outages are so rare on Antigua and in Guyana that few residents there can remember the last time they were left in darkness.
Under Wartsila, Guyana Power and Light (or Lekkie, as they call it) is so interactive that their website has a power watch line maintenance schedule that tells residents precisely the streets where a blackout will occur and for how long. Lekkie is even leading the charge for solar energy installations around Guyana.
Were he interested in learning, Maynard could go up to Freeport and chat with the workers at the shipyard who know Wartsila well and don’t seem to see them as the bogeyman that he wants to paint them.
Wartsila is a global company with over 17,000 employees and a turnover of over $5 billion a year. They have a Caribbean footprint through a regional office in Puerto Rico and they were one of the first private companies on the ground and committed to rebuilding the region following the devastating hurricanes of 2017.
Finland is no stranger to the Caribbean or the Bahamas. In 2016 the Governor General was diplomatically cordial in welcoming the Finnish Ambassador to Government House.
Finland has been a member of the Inter-American Development Bank for over 40 years and while the bank has no visible footprint in most Caribbean countries, it is active through the IDB providing financing alternatives for projects in the energy sector and others.
PLP Leader Brave Davis, still looking for traction after the foolish decision to boycott Parliament, weighed in and tried to tip-toe through the land mines laid by Maynard. Davis knows that his credibility with the power company is still on shaky ground after he signed a contract with a US firm that had to be nullified in order to save it.
Davis is the head of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and so he could get answers to his questions by doing his job there rather than wondering aloud how the Wartsila deal would be funded.
How about from the savings we will achieve by spending less to import dirty bunker C diesel oil to run the polluting and highly inefficient generators that are prone to breakdowns. Captain Fossil needs to retool his thinking.
He might consider pushing for Wartsila to directly employ Bahamians to help run the facility at Clifton and others around the world. He can lobby for engineering scholarships to help train Bahamian engineers. And he could observe best workplace practices that could actually make jobs safer and more rewarding for his members.
Captain Fossil’s extortion attempt must be rebuffed. Threats and intimidation won’t help us modernize and bring state of the art electricity generation and distribution.
If Maynard were truly concerned about the welfare of his members, and not just about how biggity he looks on the 7 o’clock news, he would be moving with alacrity toward a just transition for the workers. Some will deserve and command hefty retirement and disengagement packages while others will need retraining. Some simply won’t have the skills to take part in a new computerized BPL. They will need help finding new jobs.
But change must come and this uproarious union dinosaur trying to hold back the tide should either get with the programme or get out of the way. This bully must be put in his place.
March 10, 2019.