NASSAU, BAHAMAS -Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) president Kimsley Ferguson suggested on Friday that workers may have to take to the streets again in protest if the government continues to show ‘disregard’ for public service workers and their union representatives.
Speaking at a press conference at BPSU headquarters, Kimsley Ferguson said the union ‘will not sit idly by’ while workers in the country are disregarded.
The government has approved lump sum payments for public servants affected by Hurricane Dorian. A memorandum obtained by Eyewitness News revealed there will be a $1,000 lump sum payment for all government workers affected by the record storm, with a $2,600 payout for those who have been relocated.
There will also be a hardship allowance granted on a case-by-case basis.
The memo was sent out Thursday from the Ministry of Public Service and National Insurance, and advised a formal Cabinet Conclusion would follow. It was signed by permanent secretary Donella Bodie, and noted support for public servants was approved at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Mr. Ferguson said that while the union was ‘excited’ that those persons who have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian on Abaco and Grand Bahama and are now displaced are going to get some sort of relief.
“We are finding out everyday there are persons living with relatives. That is causing an additional strain on those households. We would have had discussions with the Minister of the Public Service who said that is what he is what was going to propose. We are happy that which was proposed has been solidified so persons can benefit. However there are persons in Nassau who may not lost their roofs, may not have been displaced and we don’t see any allocations for them. My recommendation would have been to the minister at that point that there be some sort of assistance be it via loan of some $5,000 so those people can access to replace sheet rock and furniture. Some people lost all their furnitures,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson continued, “While persons sympathize with persons who may have been evacuated and displaced from Abaco and Grand Bahama they find themselves in the position where before the hurricane they were economically challenged. A number of persons are excited that their colleagues are being assisted but they are asking what about us? At this juncture we haven’t gotten any type of commitment from government with regards to the financial aspects of the various agreements. Every industrial agreement is being held up at the point of finances. We have gotten no counterproposals.”
According to Ferguson, the ‘disregard’ being shown for the workers in this country is unacceptable and ‘the union will not sit idly by and accept it”. “The government is not acting very labour friendly. This is very disheartening and discouraging. The workers of this country are the ones turning the wheels of the public service and they deserve a slice of the pie. We are making an appeal again to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minster to have some respect for the worker’s representatives. We need to know what the way forward is going to look like, so that we we can say to our membership, be patient with the government or we will take some other action,” said Ferguson. He added, “The unrest is brewing in this country. I think before we get to that point someone must have proper regard for the stakeholders.”
Brensil Rolle, Minister of the Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle told Eyewitness News that due to the fact that numerous public service workers have to be relocated due to Hurricane Dorian the government decided on a $2,600 payment.
“We took that position because of the crisis and individuals having to relocated without request. A considerable number of persons will come from Abaco to Nassau and others to other family islands and so we have paid for relocation. That is why the $2,600 was there. The rental allowance will be for persons either lost their homes and move and now have to pay rent. That is normal set of protocol. The $1,000 offered is a gratis payment to individuals in the public service that will assist them in relocating,” said Rolle.
He added that government will honor $800 the lump sum payment agreed to pre-storm. “We will honor the agreement and the conditions in the agreement. We will honor the agreement and the conditions in the agreement. We have pushed the date back to December when all public officers will get what was signed in the agreement with the public service.”
When asked whether workers may again have to take to the streets in protest Mr Ferguson said, “It is appears as if thats the only language the government understands. If that is it then that is what we will speak,” said Mr Ferguson.