By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A REASONABLE “workable” wage for Bahamian workers is “coming very soon”, according to Immigration and Labour Minister Keith Bell.
Minister Bell made the statement before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting when he also told reporters that Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis recommitted his government to addressing outstanding labour issues during a meeting with the country’s unions.
That meeting was held early yesterday morning with Minister Bell and officials of umbrella unions along with their subsidiaries inclusive of unions representing “nurses, doctors, hotel and immigration” officers.
Although Mr Bell did not want to disclose the details of that meeting, he said issues relating to overtime pay among other things were addressed.
He said: “We had a meeting with the unions this morning and the... Prime Minister addressed the unions directly and indicated that this is a government which has heard their concerns, their issues and at this morning’s meeting at Cabinet we intend to address a number of those matters. I cannot speak too much about it because I don’t want to pre-empt anything the Prime Minister would want to address today.
“There are a number of agreements that have many outstanding issues – pay, issues relating to wage, hours of work, overtime, etc, and so all of those matters we will be discussing today.”
In the lead up to the general election, the Minnis administration continued to face union unrest sparked by unresolved workplace grievances.
A month before election, the Progressive Liberal Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas and Trade Union Congress promising to ensure long-standing union issues were resolved. A number of union leaders later revealed they had not been involved in the MoU and distanced themselves from it.
In a tweet yesterday, press secretary Clint Watson confirmed that Mr Davis had met with the Commonwealth Trade Union Congress, saying he set the “tone that abuse of workers must end”.
“He also announced a new programme agreed by Cabinet to benefit workers,” Mr Watson added.
Meanwhile, Mr Bell said: “You would recall that during the campaign, we would have signed a MoU with the union and the Prime Minister, he was leading from the front and that is the reason why he actually went there himself with me by his side to demonstrate to them that we intend as a government to live up to our obligations.”
Mr Bell also reiterated the government’s commitment to increasing the minimum wage which he said is expected to happen very soon.
“That is something that we intend to bring legislation as soon as possible,” the minister added. “It has already been addressed at a Cabinet level. I would say The Bahamas will be signing on with the ILO (the International Labour Organisation) for decent work (wage) which also encompasses minimum wage on December 6.
“So, it’s a very big thing that’s going to be happening very soon in the country and the government has committed to ensuring that we remove the minimum wage to a reasonable, workable wage. That’s coming very soon.”