Benjamin: Workers should have been given option to test weekly instead
BCPOU alleges foreign workers brought in to replace contract workers
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A handful of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) contractual workers who did not wish to become vaccinated against the coronavirus did not receive new contracts due to the company’s vaccination policy that took effect January 1, 2022.
When contacted, BTC CEO André Foster said that in an effort to safeguard its customers and colleagues, the company added a vaccination policy as one of its requirements for non-full-time employees and more than 90 percent of contracted workers complied, allowing them to receive new contracts.
While the CEO did not say how many contracted workers were impacted, Eyewitness News understands more than a dozen contractors wished to remain unvaccinated, with some obtaining letters from their pastors to abstain for religious reasons.
“We are proud to share that BTC has engaged seven local firms and several independent Bahamian contractors who have been working with the company to support its objective to deliver a superior broadband experience throughout The Bahamas,” Foster said.
“Combined with BTC’s existing internal construction expertise, the local construction contractors represent a total workforce of over 60 Bahamians building The Bahamas’ network of the future.
“The supplemental international contractors bring the total amount of teams on the ground to over 70 people and represents the largest active telecommunications construction currently in the country.”
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) President Sherry Benjamin said the contractual workers were let go on February 1.
While the BCPOU does not represent those workers, Benjamin said she met with Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis last week Friday in hopes that he would intervene.
[Davis] is saying he is a supporter of vaccination and he wants me to encourage my people to get vaccinated. I am not going to encourage anybody to get vaccinated because I think it is their personal choice.
– BCPOU President Sherry Benjamin
She said those workers should have been allowed to take COVID tests weekly in lieu of vaccination.
“That still did not happen,” she said.
“He (the prime minister) is saying he is a supporter of vaccination and he wants me to encourage my people to get vaccinated.
“I am not going to encourage anybody to get vaccinated because I think it is their personal choice.”
Benjamin also expressed concern about the company bringing on foreign laborers to replace those contract workers.
“These persons have made a choice that they will not get vaccinated, and if the law says you should not discriminate against anybody based on their creed, which is their belief, I don’t see why these people are being allowed to get away with it,” she said.
According to the BCPOU president, letting go of the contract workers, who had been full-time before a previous policy change, will result in a shortage in BTC’s skill bank of technical workers.
But Foster said the company is providing training and upskilling for BTC’s independent copper contractors as the company moves towards a “fully-fiberized network”.
Foster added that skilled fiber technicians interested in joining BTC as independent contractors can reach out to the company on any of its social media platforms or by calling the company.