By LETRE SWEETING
THE Bridge Authority and the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union signed a three-year industrial agreement yesterday that includes increased increments and salary scales.
September made three years since the previous agreement between the two entities expired, with negotiations having started before the expiration of the agreement. The new three-year agreement covers January 1, 2022, until December 31, 2024.
With this agreement being beneficial to some 38 union members, BCPOU president Sherry Benjamin said though she wanted a bit more compensation for the union members, she is “happy” with what was settled on during negotiations.
“I am grateful that we have come to this place and this time where we can finally put to rest these negotiations for a new industrial agreement for the staff at the Bridge Authority. The agreement is something I personally would have liked to have seen some other stuff happen with the agreement.
“However, it’s not about me. It’s about the staff at the Bridge Authority. And once we would have gotten to a place where we were given an offer, we took it to the membership and the membership agreed that that was acceptable to them,” she said.
“We would have hoped that the years that would have gone that was expired, we would have been able to get something for those years.
“However, Mr Longley and Mr (Bernard) Evans, the labour consultant, pointed out to us that the economic conditions of the country at this time was not favourable to allow for us to be able to get compensation for those years and we don’t want to seem unreal, unreasonable or unrealistic because we live in the same environment that they live in,” Ms Benjamin said.
“While I personally would have liked more for the members of the Bridge Authority, the members and the Bridge Authority also understand the economic conditions of the country. And my executive team and I also understand and so we went ahead with the viewpoints of the labour consultant and the chairman, and we decided to because they gave on a lot of stuff.
“They did increase the increments, they increased the salary scales a bit. And so I think the longevity of those increases is going to pay out for the staff more than that, just getting a little something here for those expired years,” Ms Benjamin said.
“I’m happy, my team is happy, and the staff is happy that we are bringing this to closure with the signing of this agreement and we look forward to a very, very productive and harmonious working relationship with the bridge, board and executive management team,” she said.
When asked if negotiations were in any way contentious, Ms Benjamin said, “It wasn’t it wasn’t contentious, you know, of course we have in negotiations, you have strong-willed people sometimes and so, but it was not contentious. It was not heated. Mr Longley, he did his part to control his team. And Mr Evans did his part to control everybody else. We had very good negotiations.”
Basil Longley, Bridge Authority chairman, said though negotiations were ongoing for a long time, the new board made it a priority to settle the talks.
“I am happy to say that we were able to execute this agreement in a fairly short time. And I say short time, because we are a new board. And we’ve been in place for the last few months,” Mr Longley said.
“We came in place with an expired agreement. We saw we flagged this as a priority to get this agreement completed and signed off as quickly as possible. I think we were successful in achieving that,” he said.
When asked about the specific amount settled on by both parties in terms of payment and increments for union members, Mr Longley said, “I’m unable to give a dollar value. However, I can say that a number of benefits were increased. For example, the increments, as Ms Benjamin said, the salary scales were expanded, because as you increase it, each staff member would move closer and closer towards the top of their salary scales.
“So, we wanted to ensure that after the increments are awarded, that there was still room within the salary scales for any further increases for example, performance increases, because these increments are pretty much across the board increases,” Mr Longley said.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.