NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said yesterday that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ statement that he was more concerned about the outcome of the Boxing Day Junkanoo parade than the looming threat of mass industrial action was made in a “moment of light humour” and was not intended to diminish the seriousness of the issue.
Minnis made the statement while speaking to reporters at Baha Mar.
He was asked whether he was concerned about the possibility of both umbrella unions and their affiliates orchestrating a mass strike.
“No. No, no, no,” he said shaking his head.
“I am more worried about other matters.
“I am more worried right now and concerned [about] whether the Saxons are going to win Junkanoo Christmas. That’s what I’m gearing up for.”
He turned to Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter Jasper Ward and asked, “you pull for us, don’t you?”
When she declined to comment, Minnis jeered, “You’re not a Saxon?” and laughed before walking away.
Earlier in the interview, the prime minister described his discussion with union leaders Monday as informative and said he is hopeful for a resolution.
He also said he will inform Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes to deal with the concerns of the various unions.
In a statement yesterday afternoon, Newbold said the prime minister met with the unions this week out of sensitivity for their concerns.
Of the Saxons comment, Newbold said it was made “within the context of engaging the media in a moment of light humour” at the end of an interview, which “ended on a high note with the prime minister giving a hearty chuckle to members of the press before moving on to his next assignment”.
“The prime minister at no time, however, sought to make light of or diminish the seriousness of labour issues or the concerns of workers within the country,” Newbold said.
“It was only after giving a clear response to the question that the prime minister sought to use the opportunity as an avid Junkanooer and member of the Saxons Superstars to have a light-hearted moment with the media.
“The prime minister meant no disrespect to unions, labour or workers and had also indicated that his time spent with unions leaders provided him with the opportunity to receive a brief history of the issues they faced over the past 15 years.
“He also advised that he will consult with the Minister of Labour, Senator Dion Foulkes view a view to establishing an understanding and communication network moving forward.”
Senior physicians have ceased all elective public healthcare service since last Tuesday, citing failed negotiations with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) over raises.
The Bahamas Nurses Union overwhelmingly voted to strike last night, according to unofficial results provided by the union.
At least seven other unions have either threatened industrial action or demonstrated recently.