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Farewell To ‘Giant Of The Labour Movement’ Bastian

THOMAS Bastian, a founding member of the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union, died yesterday.

In a statement mourning his death, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis lamented the loss of “a giant of the labour movement and a nation builder.”

He said as secretary general and later president of the BHCAWU, Mr Bastian was credited with building that institution into one of the largest and most powerful labour unions in The Bahamas.

“The Worker's Bank, a day care centre, a laundromat, a restaurant, and three union buildings were among the union's impressive list of commercial acquisitions and extensive real estate holdings under the leadership of Mr Bastian.

“He was a good friend and I always admired his conviction – expressed through his ardent advocacy for the rights and protection of the Bahamian worker. Many of the rights and employment benefits enjoyed by hotel workers today were the result of his dogged tenacity and determination in protecting the rights and job security of hotel workers.

“Even though we found ourselves sometimes on opposite sides of the negotiating table, he was always respectful of me, my colleagues and the process,” Mr Davis said.

He said Mr Bastian was the architect behind two memoranda of understanding with the Progressive Liberal Party on the way forward for Bahamian workers – one signed in 1977 and the most recent MoU signed with union leaders this year.

“His passing brings to an end a significant era in the country's labour movement. Thomas Bastian has left big shoes to be filled with many miles to travel before rest is taken.

“I thank him for his service to the labour movement and to our country,” Mr Davis said.

Yesterday, the BHCAWU released a statement about Mr Bastian’s death, calling him a “true hero” and founding member of the union.

“He served the union diligently for 18 years — from 1982 to 2000. Indeed, Bastian was the longest-serving president of the hotel union and will be missed by all,” the union said.

“Bastian was a man of many ideas. Among his accomplishments, he opened the Workers Bank on Harrold Road; Workers Laundry; Workers Day Care Centre; and a multimillion-dollar complex known as Workers House on Harrold Road.

“Bastian also kept alive the Worker’s Pension Fund. Under his portfolio, he was also in charge of the advancement of the housing projects for hotel workers throughout the Family Islands, among other such initiatives,” the union said.

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