Foulkes: Despite union unrest, partnership with unions remain ‘active and strong’

Senator Dion Foulkes.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Labour Minister, Dion Foulkes, expressed in his national Labour Day address to the nation on Thursday night, that while his ministry may have experienced a very active and public industrial relations environment over the past 12 months, the country remains stable and its partnership with various unions remain active and strong.

“It is in my view that this strong partnership will continue to have a direct impact on the high percentage of settlements of disputes in the workplace which are amicably resolved, while contributing to the resurgence of our economy,” Foulkes said in his national address.

As Labour Day was celebrated in The Bahamas this past Friday, June 7, union unrest in the country has reached an all-time high over the past 12 months.

Members of the Bahamas 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.

Earlier this month, 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 recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike.

At the end of last month, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union protested 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 also 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 national address, Foulkes assured that the staff at his Ministry have worked aggressively to address the various challenges that confront workers and their trade unions, as well as the needs of those workers that are not associated with organized trade unions.

“We have made significant progress in reducing the high level of unemployment to improving services of the Ministry and the Department of Labour, to ensure that the desires of both workers and employers are responded to in a timely and professional manner,” Foulkes said.

“It is our desire to see that the public is served efficiently and effectively and that time and ease of doing business with my Ministry is reduced.”

On Thursday night, Foulkes said that it was also  his Government’s intention to continue to address some of the critical issues facing the private sector and his ministry was open to suggestions and recommendations in addressing urgent issues in a provocative and innovative way.

“As the private sector is a significant contributor to the engine of our economy, my Government stands in partnership with the business community in providing the requisite tools and programs which will enable the respective businesses to grow and flourish,” Foulkes said.

Meanwhile, the labour minister said as his ministry looks forward to 2020 and beyond, he wanted to ensure all stakeholders of the government’s commitment to maintaining the cordial working relationship with its social partners. He also pledged that his ministry, over the next 12 months, will continue to focus on further implementation of its goals, which are to:

  • Ensure that all ‘Heads of Agreement’ recognize workers’ rights.
  • Facilitate dialogue to promote and implement workers’ education programs.
  • Offer further amendments to Section (20) of the Industrial Relations Act to facilitate the ‘International Labour Organization’ recommendation on Trade Union Independence.