By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE leaders of the country’s top labour unions said they are not surprised by the Progressive Liberal Party’s victory in yesterday’s election and are hopeful that their various grievances can be adequately addressed under the new administration.
Shortly after the PLP was announced as the nation’s new government, Bahamas Public Services Union President Kimsley Ferguson told The Tribune his group was “optimistic” that the incoming administration would “hold true to their word” in addressing their concerns.
Earlier this month, dozens of BPSU members demonstrated outside Princess Margaret Hospital citing unfair promotion practices, outstanding industrial agreements and other unresolved grievances.
Mr Ferguson said while the union has had issues under a PLP administration in the past, the government’s most recent campaign slogan indicates that it is “a new day,” which suggests that the incoming administration will “apply themselves differently from the previous PLP administrations in being honourable individuals and addressing the outstanding concerns of the workers of this country”.
“First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate the PLP on winning the general election. The Bahamas Public Services Union wants to say to them a battle well fought,” he said. “We are hopeful that the incoming prime minister and his Cabinet will seek to address the concerns in relation to the workers of the country as opposed to the former government that appeared not to be very labour friendly.
“And so again, we want to say congratulations to the Honourable Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, the prime minister-elect and we expect that we will be given an audience with the new team airing the various concerns that we do have so that the way forward can be chartered and we can report back to our membership and give them some ray of hope in relation to a situation that had looked so dismal.”
Montgomery Miller, the president of the Water and Sewerage Management Union also said he was grateful for the outcome of the election.
In the past, he has highlighted a myriad of concerns his members have had with the affairs at the Water and Sewerage Corporation including cases where managers have allegedly been dismissed wrongfully, employees’ salaries were withheld wrongfully and people were transferred without any justification.
“Based on the experience we’ve had, we’re thankful to get a change in government,” he told this newspaper. “We would have had some engagement with certain members of the PLP and they met with the Trade Union Congress which is the umbrella union under which we fall. They made certain overtures with respect to the memorandum of understanding between labour and the unions. So we’re hopeful that they will honour that and for certain we expect that we will have much better dialogue because we had zero dialogue, nothing constructive with this past administration.”
Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Kyle Wilson also referenced the memorandum of understanding signed by the PLP when he spoke to The Tribune.
“In that document they would have laid out avenues through which issues can be resolved peacefully,” he explained. “So I am looking forward to a peaceful outcome to the outstanding issues that still remain in BPL union wise “.
Over the past four years, BEWU members have staged several protests citing disrespect of the union and poorly handled negotiations of their industrial agreement.
In view of this fact, Mr Wilson said he was not surprised by the election results.
“Based on the feedback from workers throughout the country, industrial unrest, some of the initiatives that the former government would have taken that would have seemed anti-union and based on the sentiment within BPL itself, it’s not a shocking surprise to be honest,” he stated.
Likewise, Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson has not been shy in voicing the concerns of educators across the country.
Yesterday, she doubled down on previous comments calling on government officials to complete the union’s new industrial agreement.
“As stated the Bahamas Union of Teachers expects and demands that whichever party was successful we expect the agreement to be completed,” she said.
She added: “The new government has branded themselves as a labour friendly government, so we expect to have improved communication; industrial goodwill; inclusion in policy decisions and a workable plan for education.”
Mrs Wilson said the BUT must be engaged as an important stakeholder. She also said they expect education officials to respect the union and to adhere to the agreements, rules and regulations.
“There definitely must be a new day in the Ministry and Department of Education. The Bahamas Union of Teachers is prepared to work with the government to ensure that public education is a priority and that our nation’s children will be the beneficiaries of a quality education system. Teachers are an integral part of the public education system and we look forward to playing our role. Again, congratulations to the incoming Prime Minister Honourable Philip Brave Davis and his team.”