NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Employees at the National Insurance Board (NIB) are set to take a strike vote on Friday, with the attorney for the Union of Public Officers which represents NIB line workers predicting that “well over 90 per cent” of NIB employees are in favor of a strike.
Trade Union Congress (TUC) president Obie Ferguson confirmed to Eyewitness News Online that the strike poll has been set for this Friday. Mr Ferguson had appeared in court yesterday challenging the decision that Labour Minister Dion Foulkes to cancel the employee strike poll last week.
“The poll is now set for November 1 between the hours of 10 am and 4pm. The strike poll had been cancelled. The point we had made was that even though there may have been technicalities we were going to court to get the court to order the poll if the minister chose not to. They came to court and consented to the poll taking place on November 1. It really wasn’t necessary,” said Mr Ferguson.
He added, “The Minister and the Director ought to have cured that defect without having to go to court. The Act is very clear,; once proper notice is given to the minister, meaning two days notice, the minister must attend or sign a designated officer to supervise the poll. It is not up to him to cancel the poll nor is it up to the director. They can only do so if there is a defect. In that case they made a letter on October 21 authorizing the poll and authorizing a labour officer to supervise the poll. You can’t give permission in writing and on the eve of the poll you verbally cancel it and announce it on the news. The union saw that as union busting and an attempt to undermine the leadership of the union. From what I have seen we will have well over 90 per cent of the workers voting in favor of a strike.”
John Pinder, director of labour, said last week that the strike poll was deemed invalid because there were technical deficiencies with the union’s application.
Workers at the National Insurance Board have been demonstrating in recent weeks at NIB headquarters on Baillou Hill Road over failed negotiations regarding a new industrial agreement that have languished since April. The last agreement expired in December 2018. On Monday, NIB employees went on work to rule over the outstanding industrial agreement.
Mr Ferguson told Eyewitness News, “What needs to happen is that the government negotiators ought to sit down in a meaningful way and negotiate the industrial agreement as envisaged as by the Industrial Relations Act. We say that in order to avoid strikes and industrial action the parties should sit down and negotiate meaningfully and in good faith the issues they have outstanding. That is what I encourage NIB to do. The strongest tool the union has is the ability to strike, the ability to withdraw their labour. Why let it get to that?”