Nurses, doctors and teachers advancing strike votes
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis will meet with the presidents of both umbrella unions in the country on Monday, as nearly a dozen of their affiliates advance plans for industrial action which threaten to shut down The Bahamas’ public healthcare, education and hotel sectors.
“I am pleased to announce today that the prime minister will meet with all of the presidents of all of the unions in the country from both umbrella groups this coming Monday at 10 a.m. at the Office of the Prime Minister,” Foulkes said during debate in the Senate of legislation aimed at reforming the country’s dormant account regime.
The minister said he reached out to the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB) and both unions have agreed to meet.
Foulkes said he expects Minnis to address the specific issues of each union.
He calling the meeting a “wonderful opportunity” for those groups to have direct dialogue with the prime minister.
Yesterday, marked the third day senior physicians ceased the majority of elective services in the public healthcare sector following failed negotiations with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) over salaries increase.
Physicians have not received an increase in the last decade
Physicians’ withdrawal Tuesday forced Princess Margaret Hospital to activate its Emergency Operations Centre.
The Consultant Physicians Staff Association’s (CPSA met with the PHA yesterday morning, but remained at an impasse.
“Madam president, I also wish to encourage the Consultant Physicians Staff Association, the CPSA, to return to work and to return to normal duties, especially taking into consideration that the prime minister has invited the president (Dr. Locksley Munroe) and the president of the affiliated union, Mr. Obie Ferguson, to a conference of Monday,” Foulkes said in the Senate.
In the last few weeks, at least nine unions have either demonstrated or threatened to withdraw labour.
These include, the CPSA, the Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU); the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU); the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT); the Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (TETB); the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU), the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union (BCPMU) and the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU).
Foulkes said the BNU will hold a strike vote next Tuesday.
The nurses have rejected a new shift system imposed by the PHA.
The minister said he is hopeful that their concerns will be addressed before then.
The BDU’s junior physicians also requested a strike vote this week over a lack of overtime pay for holiday worked.
BDU Dr. Melisande Bassett said junior physicians are the only group within the hospital that does not get paid double time for working holidays.
Last Tuesday, the overwhelming majority of BIMAWU members voted to strike.
The union representing workers at Morton Salt said the company has failed to come to terms on a new industrial agreement.
The union has also taken issue employee wages, retirement pay, and vacation times.
Yesterday, Foulkes said Morton Salt’s management is scheduled to meet with the BIMAWU next week.
He expressed confidence that both sides will come up with an agreement that is “acceptable to both sides”.
He said, “Both sides may not get everything, but the main thing is to find some middle ground that is acceptable.”
Meanwhile, the BUT has threatened to strike over environmental concerns at C.H. Reeves Junior High School, though Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said this week that he was under the impression all of the issues had been resolved to the union’s satisfaction.
The BUT’s request for a strike vote is pending, according to Foulkes.
“I have not declined, but I have not approved a strike vote for one reason,” he said.
“We are getting legal advice on weather a part of a bargaining unit can conduct a strike vote as opposed to the entire bargaining unit. The application was for one school only, for C.H. Reeves.
“So, our in-house lawyer who is very component is advising us and she is in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office.
Last week, NCTUB President Bernard Evans warned that all unions were reaching a breaking point.