NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A top trade unionist and labour attorney said he had been left humbled and deeply saddened having been ‘inundated’ with calls over the past few weeks from jobless workers seeking relief.
Obie Ferguson, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said:“This kind of situation is very damaging not only to the workers but the country as a whole. We have no income, no tourists and the workers are now crying out. I am being inundated with calls from people in my union, in other unions, outside of the union who have a view that I can bring some form of relief. The difficulty is, the union, most if not all of them have no provision for this type of situation.”
He continued: “It makes you humble to realize that the Bahamas has gotten to the point where so many people can’t get a paycheck. It’s a serious emotional situation and it affects me personally. I realize what pressure is being put on families who cannot find a meal and would do anything to get a meal.
“We, all of us have not done what we ought to to anticipate a catastrophic situation such as this. You cant be perfect but you must be seen to be doing something. These kinds of things come in one form or the other.”
Ferguson told Eyewitness News the COVID-19 fall-out further underscores the need for a special emergency or catastrophic fund, something he has advocated for decades.
“My main concern is over the fact that for almost 15-20 years now I have been trying to get all the stakeholders to agree with me that what we ought to establish was an emergency fund for catastrophic instances such as this,” he said.
“I though it made sense for workers to make a contribution to an emergency fund, the employer would make a small contribution as would the government and there would be a trust set up with all the various representatives. If successive governments had followed that advice at least that fund could have been used to bring relief to a substantial number of workers,” said Ferguson.
He added: “I have a system at the Grand Lucayan where it’s almost in excess of $110,000 dollars there. I set that fund up for that employer and the workers can now have something to look forward to to assist them during this period. That is in the agreement. I was trying to get it across the board but it created some difficulty.”