Baptist Reverend tells union leaders to “stop being petty”

Four unionists who died at last year’s tragedy recognized posthumously

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As several unions remain at an impasse while some have recently taken a strike vote, Rev. Terrence G. Morrison, pastor of Zion Baptist Church on East and Shirley Streets, on Sunday blasted unions from the pulpit as many of its leaders and members worshipped at the church to officially kick-off labour week.

“Stop using the union to advance partisan, political aspirations,” Rev. Morrison told a packed church of congregants in his preached sermon, which was also televised live on ZNS.

“Stop using the union to fulfill personal grudges and vendettas, stop being petty as union leaders, stop attracting and attacking people’s characters and stop taking everything personally.”

Yesterday’s service was attended by Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes; president of the Trade Union Congress Obie Ferguson; Labour Director John Pinder; president of the National Congress of Trade Unions Bernard Evans, amongst other union heads, officials and members.

As it now stands, union unrest in the country has reached an all-time high as members of theBahamas Industrial Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) are still holding on to a strike certificate with the hope that the Inagua-based Morton Salt Company would offer more than a 1.5 percent salary increase.

Last week, the union of Junior Doctors threatened to withdraw their services, claiming that the Public Hospitals Authority had reduced their contracts from three years to one year without consultation.

The Bahamas Catering Allied and Workers Union voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike last week Thursday.

The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union protested last week at Rawson Square, airing a number of concerns that they claim have fallen on deaf ears.

The Union of Public Officers, which represent workers at the National Insurance Board led a two-day sick-out last month as negotiations for a new industrial agreement had stalled.

Also, managers as well as the line-staff union at the Water and Sewerage Corporation have taken strike polls.

In his preached sermon yesterday, Morrison admonished union heads as well as the government to avoid every form of bad intention, to have political savvy, be positive in speech, and set aside their egos.

Union heads, he said, should know when to: produce and give attention to detail, engage in proper counsel, understand the power of truth, understand the power of confidence of people, understand the power of silence, be perceptive and receptive, know when to fold and when to hold, as well as when to walk away and when to compromise.

“I believe that a lot can be accomplished in our country if we would just get past ourselves and put people first, recognizing that ours is the task to make the lives of those better,” Rev. Morrison said.

The Baptist preacher told congregants that the goal of any government is to manage the patrimony of the people, to stand up for and defend the rights of the people, charging that only the rights of the people ought to be defended – not personal agendas or clandestine desires.

Rev. Morrison also admonished employers, stating that they should ensure that employees are satisfied as a “satisfied” worker is a productive worker.

He also went on to challenge Bahamians not to continuously work for other people, but to tap into the source of their own creative genius and become business owners.

“Now that the Downtown revitalization project is full steam ahead, you ought to be opening yourself to figure out how can I make some money as a small business owner,” Rev. Morrison advised.

Meanwhile, also addressing the congregation was Obie Ferguson, president of the Trade Union Congress, who told congregants that striking was not a bad thing as it is a means that was used to achieve many of the benefits that Bahamians now enjoy, such as double and triple time as well as the right to have a collective agreement.

Yesterday’s service at Zion Baptist also posthumously recognized the four female unionists who lost their lives at last year’s Labour Day parade.

Rev. Morrison expressed that Zion was the closet church to the site of last year’s tragedy and the church therefore had a responsibility to offer a space to the family of the four fallen sisters, so that their families could lay wreaths on the anniversary of their unfortunate demise.

The four female unionists were killed when an unoccupied truck rolled down East Street at last year’s Labour Day parade, hitting marchers as it picked up speed, finally crashing near East and Shirley Street, just feet away from Zion Baptist Church.

At yesterday’s church service, a memorial plaque was unveiled outside the eastern wall of the church as well as a cross bearing the names of the four women, which was placed in a small garden near the eastern end of the church’s entrance.

The four female unionists who lost their life at last year’s Labour Day tragedy were: Tabitha Charlene Bethel-Haye, 41; Tami Patrice Williams-Gibson, 48; Dianne Elizabeth Gray-Ferguson, 55 and Kathleen Augusta Rodgers-Fernander, 51.