Mass sick-out at NIB

Union president suggests negotiations could continue today

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the unionized members of the National Insurance Board (NIB) withdrew services yesterday, forcing the country’s social security body to delay pension payments in at least one Family Island, Union of Public Officers President Marvin Duncombe said he believes members will feel well enough today to facilitate a meeting with NIB Chairman Troy Smith.

Duncombe previously said the union reached a stalemate with management in negotiations, and the working conditions at NIB had become untenable.

The union’s concerns range from alleged unfair hiring practices to disputes about compensation packages, among others.

While he was unable to confirm how many workers called in sick, Duncombe said, “The staff at NIB, they are indeed sick and they are tired.

“Many of them have called me and said they are not feeling well, and therefore they are exercising their constitutional and contractual right to be out and to seek medical attention today.

“Many of the medical facilities all across the nation — Grand Bahama in the north; Inagua in the south — have been receiving our members as they are sick and working in some extreme conditions.”

When asked what employees had contracted, the union president was unable to say.

However, he said, “You understand this more than most; NIB is a rundown facility.

“…NIB has all kind of things in it. The fact of the matter is that the people, not just physically, they are emotional tired. They are psychologically sick and they are feeling a serious sense of nausea because of the way they are being treated.”

Despite the sick-out, NIB said that all locations in New Providence were open as of yesterday afternoon, inclusive of the Wulff Road and Fox Hill offices.

In a statement to its customers, however, NIB said it was experiencing “service level disruptions throughout New Providence and [the] Family Island offices”.

It said “At this time the Wulff Road and Fox Hill will continue to provide all services to the public, except cashier services for contribution payments and the distribution of short-term benefits cheques,” the public notice read.

NIB said its headquarters at the Clifford Darling Complex on Bailliou Hill Road continued to provide full service to the public yesterday, and customers seeking to make a contribution payment should visit its headquarters or use the cheque drop box at the Cable Beach post office.

NIB’s offices in Fresh Creek, Andros, Rock Sound and North Eleuthera were closed yesterday, according to NIB.

It said all other Family Island offices were open.

The board also advised that pension payments scheduled for today will continue in New Providence and the Family Islands, however, pension payments for residents of Fresh Creek, Andros, will now take place tomorrow.

It said, “Management is working to address the operations to minimize disruption to is customers, and apologizes for any inconvenience caused.”

Meanwhile, Duncombe said he spoke with Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle on Tuesday night and was assured the concerns raised would be reviewed.

He also said a meeting between the union’s representatives and Smith could not be facilitated yesterday because members were sick, but he believes that they will feel well enough today to attend.

“We have agreed to have a conversation with the chairman tonight (Wednesday) and hopefully we are looking at a possible meeting tomorrow,” Duncombe added.