Central Bank of the Bahamas.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
MEMBERS of the Union of Central Bankers walked off the job yesterday citing unresolved grievances with management.
Before midday the bankers, who had been working from home, arrived at Central Bank to begin their protest.
The Tribune spoke with Theressa Thompson, union president, who said there are a number of issues the bank’s management needs to take care of including breach of contract.
“The bank is unilaterally changing the terms of our industrial agreement in that a wellness bonus that we normally (receive)—that has been in our contract for about 15 to 20 years—they decided that they will not be paying it,” Ms Thompson said.
“If it’s in your contract—no one decides that. They have to come and discuss that with the union which they have not.
“Then they are coming with new performance management. The next thing is that while 80 to 90 percent of us work from home, the expenses for COVID have shifted from the bank to home. Here it is you have to pay more light, more water. . .everything is now more at home. So all we are saying is that we need a higher stipend.
“The last thing is that our industrial agreement has expired from January and we were in negotiations and we are not getting anywhere so we had to file trade disputes with regard to those matters. So today was just a combination. We were working from home for 15 months so we just decided to shut down those laptops and get out and walk.”
Ms Thompson said yesterday was the day when the union members told Central Bank bosses that enough is enough.
Bernard Evans, president of the National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTU), was out in support of the bankers and said all the bank has to do is to renegotiate the contract with its workers instead of trying to circumvent it.
“I don’t understand why people will sit down and negotiate a contract and then find ways to circumvent, when the contract is already signed,” Mr Evans said. “You sit down and negotiate with the union. This should not be done unilaterally. This is not a dictatorship. You sit down with the union and renegotiate.
“Whatever it is you want to take out of the contract, you have to sit down and renegotiate. Until such time the members say ‘we don’t want this particular benefit’ then it’s there to stay.
“It is the law so I don’t know why people continuously disrespect workers and their representatives, disrespect contracts and violate the actual law of the country. It’s sad when we find that government agencies are the biggest abusers and violators of these contracts.”
Former Bahamas Electrical Union Workers chief, Paul Maynard, was also out supporting the bankers. Maynard, now first vice president of the NCTU, said the problem is that unions are just not respected.
“They need to respect the unions,” Mr Maynard said. “It’s as simple as that. The unions only want respect and the problem is they are not respecting the union.
“There are no ifs and ands and buts about that. You can’t just say you are taking all this stuff off the table, when meanwhile they are not taking stuff off the table for themselves.
“They (Central Bank) are building two buildings. They say one building will cost $120 million, but we all know that is $160 million. That is not necessary at this time.
“The other building is said to cost $80 million but we all know that is $120 million. The point is those buildings are not necessary. You are talking about you don’t have the money.”