NIB workers demonstrate over ‘failed negotiations’

NIB workers demonstrate over ‘failed negotiations’
Workers demonstrate outside the National Insurance Board (NIB) headquarters on Baillou Hill Road last week.

NIB says in continues to work in good faith with both unions

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Scores of workers at the National Insurance Board (NIB) demonstrated outside its headquarters on Baillou Hill Road this morning.

The workers cited failed negotiations over a new industrial agreement that have languished since April.

The last agreement expired in December 2018.

Attempts to speak with Virgill-Rolle were unsuccessful this morning, however, NIB issued a statement around 5 p.m., saying tremendous headway had been made in negotiations over the last six months with “only a few articles remaining to be concluded”.

“Since May 2019, the negotiations were moved by the UPO to the minister of public service and national insurance,” read the statement. “Management has been advised that negotiations were continuing. NIB continues to meet on an ongoing basis and work in good faith with both of its union, the Union of Public Officers and Public Managers Union to address issue that arise and to foster good relations. The industrial agreement for the PMU, which represents management staff, expires in December 2019 and negotiations for a new agreement is expected to commence shortly.”

NIB apologized for any disruptions caused in service as a result of the short demonstration.

It expressed gratitide to its hardworking staff and management who continued operations during the disruptions, and noted that in cases of interruptions to its services as a result of action management will “trigger its contingency plans”.

Earlier this morning, the workers claimed management continues to disregard staff and their entitlements.

More than 50 line staff and managerial union members gathered on the complex around 10 a.m.

Workers held placards that read: “The unions at NIB are tired” and “No respect for unions”.

They also called for the removal of NIB Director Nicola Virgill-Rolle, shouting: “Virgil got to go, Virgil got to go”.

Union of Public Officers (UPO) President Ghion Roach said union members walked off the job to send a message.

“We have been disrespected and disregarded,” he said.

“The union has not been dealt with fairly and we are here to tell management that this Friday we are prepared to take it to the polls and have a strike vote. The outcome of that vote will be yes and we will send a message loud and clear.”

He said despite interventions from the Department of Labour, management continues to refuse to negotiate in good faith. The union is comprised of more than 400 members.

For her part, Public Managers Union president F. Cassandra Cartwright-Lewis said her union has meet with management to no avail.

She lamented the continued rhetoric and lip service on matters.

“We cannot continue on the stead we are going in,” she said.

“The unions and management are better served by having relationships where we can sit down and amicably resolve matters.”

She called on the union’s affiliates to stand up against what she called an emerging trend of employers operating contrary to industrial agreements.

Representatives on the Union of Tertiary Educators, Bahamas Utilities services and Allied Workers Union and General Workers Union stood in support of the NIB staff.

Dr. Thomas Bastian, a former president of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, foreshadowed a general strike in the near future.

In May, more than 100 NIB employees protested the protracted state of negotiations.

At the time, the union said it was locked in discussions with the board for nearly six months before they came to an impasse, as management had refused to negotiate in good faith.