By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union is in discussion with ZNS management in Grand Bahama over the handling of an incident there when an employee became ill at work and later tested positive with COVID-19.
BCPOU president Dino Rolle told The Tribune on Monday that the union is speaking with management with a view to resolving any differences and concerns the union and employees might have regarding such matters.
Asked yesterday if he was satisfied with the way things were handled at the ZNS Freeport office, Mr Rolle said: “Well, certainly there are some things that the corporation could be doing differently and we are having that conversation with management in that regard.
“We are in dialogue with them, and until such time as we are able to resolve those differences and concerns of the union and employees would have, it may not be proper for me to preempt that by speaking about it to the media. Let’s give management an opportunity to address those things.”
Mr Rolle confirmed that he had spoken to the deputy general manager at ZNS in Freeport just after he had learned there was the possibility of a case.
Rev Glenroy Bethel, president of Families For Justice (FFJ), has accused ZNS management of failing to follow proper protocols when an employee became ill and later tested positive with COVID-19. That person was subsequently hospitalised on October 14. The employee was released from the hospital last Wednesday.
He claims that management did not have employees that were exposed to the individual quarantine for 14 days, or tested for COVID-19. The activist also claims the ZNS office was never shut down for sanitisation as is the protocol followed by other businesses whenever an employee has tested positive with the disease.
Rev Bethel claimed that the staff is very concerned about how the situation was handled, but are afraid for their health and that of their families. He also said they are afraid to speak out.
A reliable source who wished to remain anonymous also told The Tribune that ZNS workers are not satisfied with the way the situation was handled by management.
The local activist criticized ZNS management for downplaying the situation by reporting that the staff were comfortable with it, and also criticised the union for remaining silent on the matter.
When contacted last week, Darren Meadows, deputy general manager for ZNS Northern Service, said he had not received any complaints or concerns from employees. He noted that the staff and the union were satisfied with how the incident was addressed.
Mr Meadows explained that after the employee left work that day, management had the entire facility sanitised as a precaution before that individual tested positive for COVID-19 five days later, last week Monday. He also indicated that executive management at ZNS in Nassau, staff, and the union were informed of what had happened. Staffers, he said, were told if they have any symptoms not to come to work and to contact management.
Yesterday Mt Rolle also indicated that the union has not received any complaints either from employees to date concerning the incident.
“The union did have a conversation with management… but because we are in a pandemic, the union wanted to make sure ZNS, which is a unique creature in terms of its operation, has adopted a policy of how they should be responding to these growing numbers of cases.
“Certainly, I have not received any reports or concerns from members in this particular case in GB, but I would have spoken to the deputy general manager just after I learned there was a possibility of a case,” he said.
“Because the staff member would have spoken to the DGM and expressed her symptoms, and just over the abundance of caution the DGM had taken action and reported to me that he went ahead and did a deep cleaning and communicated to staff in GB.
“I certainly have not received any direct complaints from the staff in GB, neither have I received any direct complaints from my reps there on the ground, the area vice president or shop stewards that there was some deep concern.
“I only received a call from somebody who refers to himself as a community activist, Rev Bethel. I have spoken with the DGM on this matter and Mr Gottlieb, the executive chairman on the board, on how these things are to be handled.”
Mr Rolle said that he finds it hard to believe that employees are afraid to speak out over fear of being fired by management.
“Being afraid to speak out to management; afraid to lose their job, not in a unionised environment. BCPOU members have never ever been shy about expressing themselves, and certainly out of fear of losing their jobs that is a no, no. Every time I hear that it causes me to get concerned. No employee in a unionised environment is concerned about losing their job,” he said.