Unions that fall under the umbrella of the National Congress of Trade Unions of the Bahamas (NCTUB) are in support of government’s proposed National Health Insurance scheme and the two per cent payment of one’s salary to fund the initiative.
NCTUB President, Bernard Evans, in an interview with Eyewitness News, said the union is backing the plan but he believes that an increase in value-added tax (VAT), coupled with the lack of salary increases, has soured the plan in the minds of many.
“Unfortunately, we have a bad taste in our mouths because of the VAT increase, but the plan is a good one that we feel though, still has to be negotiated on how it will be funded.”
Evans, who represents a significant per cent of the labour force said the plan is one of a shared responsibility that all must contribute to.
“We are now paying premiums for medical coverage now so we don’t want a watered-down version,” he said. “Two per cent is not that bad.”
Evans noted that presently many union members already have some form of health coverage with their employees and dropping that coverage to replace it with NHI is not being considered.
“You can’t trade off full coverage for something that you are paying for, so out of the premium being paid by employers we recommend that the two per cent will come from that,” Evans said.
The plan, he explained, is expected to be phased in with persons earning a minimum wage not contributing at all as well as companies employing less than 50 persons.
It is hoped that by the time the plan is rolled out in 2020, the economy will be in a better position, Evans said.
“By that time, hopefully, persons would have had a chance to look at the minimum wage and make it a livable wage, and for many who can’t afford it we hope to have it staved off as much as possible, and at the end of the day realize that it is a good plan, but we will have to pay for it.”
Evans’ views were also supported by President of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), Paul Maynard. He said that the plan is good “on paper” but the logistics of payment must be worked out. He also supports the sin tax on food products which are considered to be unhealthy.
“The sugary situation is not a good thing. Our children are getting fat, we can’t allow this to happen, so you have to come down on them.”
Freddy Munnings, Jr. of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) is also lobbying for NHI but said that consultation is paramount before implementation.
“We support the concept but there has to be ongoing discussions. They have to include labour in this and not carry it out arbitrarily,” Munnings said.