By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
GRAND Bahama union leaders continue to express strong concern about the widespread casual employment of Bahamian workers by companies throughout the island.
They believe that the practice is unfair and is the cause for the downturn of the island’s economy and depopulation. They also believe the issue has gone on for too long, unaddressed by successive governments, only to the detriment of Bahamian workers.
The issue of casual employment is among the many labour issues that the unions intend to address at the upcoming Labour Day march and rally on June 7.
The procession will start at 8.30am at Lucayan/Freeport Harbour, and proceed through the communities of Pinder’s Point, Lewis Yard, and to the YMTA Centre in Hunters, where a labour rally will take place.
Kirkland Russell, vice president of the Bahamas Managerial Hotel Union, and vice president of the Bahamas Trade Union Congress, said this year’s theme, “One For All, All For One” is a very significant and timely one for the labour movement.
He stressed that casual employment is something that the unions do not support because it does not provide casual workers benefits to which other workers are entitled under the labour laws.
An eight-page position paper was sent on behalf of the Coalition of Trade Unions in Grand Bahama to Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson, in which the unions outlined a number of labour issues and concerns facing workers.
“We believe that through dialogue and legislation change, they ought to immediately address the casual workforce phenomenon that is rampant in Grand Bahama. We believe casual labour is wreaking havoc on the workforce in GB, adversely affecting a person’s ability to get loans, to be protected, and we believe it is a form of union busting,” Mr Russell said.
Mr Russell believes that government should appoint a select committee or even a commission as soon as possible to investigate and analyse the negative effects that the casual workforce is having on the Bahamian worker and the economy.
“We see this situation as one of the catalysts behind the downturn and depopulation of Grand Bahama. We hope that when we meet with the minister on June 6 that we not only have productive conversation, but he comes with resolution to situations and issues affecting the public service, the hotel as it relates to when will voluntary separation packages be ready for the managers at Grand Lucayan, and other labour matters for all the unions,” he said.
Another vexing issue, according to Mr Russell is the use of stall tactics by employers as it relates to the completion and execution of industrial agreements.
Quinton Laroda, Bahamas Union of Teachers area vice president and fourth vice president of the NCTUB, said that workers at the post office and court house buildings in Grand Bahama are still awaiting repairs to be completed.
In education, Mr Laroda said that they have some concerns about the policy direction of the Ministry of Education.
“I appreciate the minister’s focus on early childhood education and the future of technology, but a tablet in the hand of every child is not a solution to all the problems in education. We don’t just have kids in the preschool and primary school, we have kids from grades nine to 12; we have the entire education to fix. So it is a good start, but that is not the end all,” he said.
For her part, Grand Bahama Taxi Union representative Carla Rose said taxicab drivers are facing a number of issues which they have put to the government, including a taxi fare rate increase, the problem of soliciting at the harbour, as well as issues at the hotels and airport.