NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson said yesterday it is “beyond shameful” that the government has allowed scores of Baha Mar employees to go without National Insurance Board (NIB) benefits for weeks due to a hold-up that he believes has gone on long enough.
“National Insurance should pay,” Ferguson told Eyewitness News.
“There is no logical reason for them not to pay the workers.
“They should pay. The employer, as I understand it, is living up to its part of the bargain.
“So, the government should, via the Ministry of National Insurance, should pay the people and pay them now, not to wait for tomorrow.
“That is nonsense. I call on the minister responsible for paying to pay.
“If there are technical difficulties or misunderstanding, work that out with the government.
“Do not deny the workers their monies due to them because there is a misunderstanding.
“Workers are not involved in that. The government should be required, the Ministry of National Insurance, should be required to pay and pay those people forthwith because these are difficult times and if you commit to do something, you should do it.”
Ferguson commended Baha Mar for continuing the ex gratia payment to employees.
He said: “I hope by Friday of this week they (the government) will pay the workers what is due to them. It is ridiculous.
“It’s not only shameful, it’s ridiculous. What do you expect the workers to do?
“If the workers take to the streets, then they say the workers are being insensitive and they’re trying to destroy the economy.
“My God, pay the couple of dollars to the $100, whatever the amount is — pay it to the people now, not tomorrow. Pay it now.”
The umbrella union president said government agencies should facilitate the citizenry and not “bring hardship to the citizens”.
“Government agencies are designed to assist the citizenry of that country,” Ferguson said.
“And the employers are doing what they said they are going to do.
“So, what is this issue why the government, National Insurance, is not paying?
“What reason could they give the Bahamian public as if those workers who are entitled to their couple of dollars or $100 bill or whatever the amount is. Shameful ain’t the word.
“I feel very certain that the prime minister and the minister of finance will ensure that those workers get their money and get is like ASAP.”
Baha Mar President Graeme Davis yesterday encouraged the government to do its part and “act fairly” toward Baha Mar employees over NIB unemployment benefits, which numerous employees have reported not receiving in many weeks.
Davis asserted the government has sought to “not give the NIB benefit to our associates by deducting what we’re giving to them in ex gratia and I believe it’s unfair”.
He said the resort has paid over $70 million during the period of closure to make a “significant impact” to support employees and communities.