Union heads: PM meeting was simply a “courtesy call”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Union heads who were hoping that their meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on Monday would garner results, left feeling as if their cries continue to fall on deaf ears, some heads claiming that the meeting was nothing more than a “courtesy call”.

Last week, Minister of Labor Dion Foulkes said the Prime Minister would be meeting with union heads to discuss long-standing issues and the recent requests for strike votes at the Ministry of Labour. However, Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson said yesterday’s meeting was only an opportunity for the prime minister to “regurgitate” what unions have been saying for years.

“Having to go now and meet with the Minister of Labour to discuss the same matters we have articulated in there [at the meeting], and the Minister of Labour was present, seems like another round of bureaucracy,” said Wilson, who was speaking for the first time since her suspension from the BUT which ended on Saturday.

Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Tyrone Morris said he does not understand how an effective union meeting could take place with some 20-plus union heads.

Morris described yesterday’s meeting as an opportunity for the press to make note that the prime minister was making an attempt to address workers in the country.

Union of Tertiary Educators Bahamas (UTEB) Representative, Erecia Hepburn said she felt that they are moving backwards and stressed a need for officials to address the issues.

“Every union there talked about disrespect, talked about how persons are ignoring the industrial agreements, so clearly there is a systematic issue within the entire country and I think that would be expressed by every union member that walks out here today,” Hepburn said.

President of the Bahamas Public Service Union Kimsley Ferguson added that if things continue in the present direction, history will repeat itself.

“We are going to have Burma Road again because persons are taking the plight of workers lightly in this country,” Ferguson said.

“There needs to be a unique approach to addressing the individual concerns. There are a number of issues the Bahamas Public Service Union has that cannot be addressed in that particular forum because they are unique to Bahamas Public Services Union.”

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