NASSAU, BAHAMAS — President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Obie Ferguson yesterday expressed disappointment over the government’s decision to reject the union’s request to host a Labour Day Motorcade.
The motorcade would have replaced the annual events that were canceled as a result of the global coronavirus and emergency measures implemented by the government that enforce strict social distancing policies.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Ferguson described the state of labor in the country as dismal.
“This Labour Day coming up is very sad,” he said.
“I agree with the government in terms of the parade, that makes sense to me.
“The difficulty I have though is when they refused to give us permission for the motorcade.”
Ferguson explained that under the government’s current emergency orders, which include a 9 pm to 5 am curfew and weekend lockdowns – there are no restrictions to people driving throughout the island.
“So what’s the issue if we are complying with that,” he said.
The TUC president noted that the union made written applications for both a parade and motorcade. Ferguson said he had hoped that they would be able to have the motorcade so the country can show its appreciation and support to workers.
However, in a letter from the Commissioner of Police, obtained by Eyewitness News, the TUC was advised that its request was denied due to the pandemic.
“I just find it difficult because it’s such an important day,” Ferguson continued.
“…That is very very unfortunate…This will be a part of our history. From 1962 to now, this is the very first time in the history of our country that we have been put in this position, and look where the workers are.”
The Bahamas has been in a state of emergency since March 17, after the country recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 13.
Bahamians were ordered to stay at home and non-essential services that go against physically distancing policies were shuttered.
Companies across the country have temporarily laid-off employees, including major hotels.
As of Tuesday, all islands throughout The Bahamas have been opened for commercial activity and July 1 has been announced as the day when the borders are reopened for international travel.
Ferguson stretched how important a role the event would have played in providing relief to employees who have been struggling with uncertainty for months.
“It’s very very dismal,” he said, as he spoke to the current state of labor and the challenges expected amidst nationwide cutbacks.
“With a revenue drop of $1.3 billion, it has a direct impact on workers because the employers have had to closed, the border is still closed to some extent as far as the major tourism is concerned and there’s no revenue.
“…What we now have to do is to assist the government in finding new revenue streams that would come into our country and impact the employment situation.”
The veteran labor advocate added that even when the jobs begin to restart gradually, some workers will still be challenged until July 1 and beyond.