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BPSU raises pressure on govt

As dozens of Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) members demonstrated on Parliament Street yesterday, BPSU President Kimsley Ferguson said industrial action is still on the table as the government has failed to meet to iron out several issues.

“The fact that we are here today is simply because the government decided in the absence of a negotiation to give public servants a salary increase – not an agreed salary increase,” Ferguson said.

“Of course, while we may not agree on a particular position, we can come to an agreed position. We can disagree to agree. So, we have not been given that opportunity to negotiate on behalf of the persons that we do represent.

“So, it is something called union busting. It is clear what is happening and the attack is not on the membership, but it’s on the leadership of the Bahamas Public Service Union.”

Ferguson said the government’s proposed increases are “not acceptable”.

He said he was bothered when he heard that some members of the public service will receive bigger salary increases than others.

Ferguson described the move as “a slap in the face” that adds “insult to injury” for union members.

While speaking with union members, Ferguson said, “It is incumbent upon all of us today to continue to stand and agitate. If it is necessary, we need to close down every aspect of the public service.”

The members applauded in response.

One member shouted, “Shut it down.”

Another added, “Close it down.”

Ferguson continued, “You are my bosses and so what is your will and pleasure, I will take it as my instruction.”

More members shouted, “Shut it down.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service Fred Mitchell and Minister of State for the Public Service Pia Glover-Rolle were not present at Parliament yesterday as the demonstration took place outside.

Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper and Opposition Leader Michael Pintard stopped to speak with union executives. 

Ferguson asked Cooper, “Acting Prime Minister, my concern this morning is, one, when can we sign the industrial agreement for the Airport Authority and when can we receive documentation of proposal based on the adjustments that I’m advised that the government made for consideration?” 

Cooper responded that his information from Mitchell and Glover-Rolle is that “all issues have been agreed and subject [to] cleaning of documents”.

He said, “They are ready for them to be executed. So, with that information that I have today, I’m surprised to see you here today because they’ve indicated to me that everything is agreed and ready to go.”

The BPSU falls under the Bahamas National Alliance of Trade Union Congress (BNATUC), which was formed earlier this year.

BNATUC President Belinda Wilson, who was present at the demonstration, asked Cooper to provide digital and hard copies of the final agreements for the BPSU members working in various agencies, including the Public Hospitals Authority and the Airport Authority.

“What time can he expect to get those in hard copy?” she asked.

Cooper replied, “So, you’re asking me when?”

She responded, “No. Your colleagues told you that they are ready. If they are ready, then we are asking for copies of each of them to be provided to him today for his review.”

Cooper reiterated that documents were subject to “cleaning up”.

He said Mitchell should be back in The Bahamas on December 14.

Cooper said he assumed they will be able to schedule a signing with Mitchell once he returns.

However, Wilson charged that “that’s not good enough”.

Cooper continued, “With that said, I don’t see an issue. Now, when the documents are cleaned up, they will undertake to get them to you. Minister Pia Rolle is out of the country. She is returning on Monday or Tuesday and when she returns, she will make preparations in Minister Mitchell’s absence to ensure that what needs to happen happens.”

Ferguson expressed dissatisfaction that the union was not getting “any traction of any sort” from the government.

He said he was not satisfied following the brief discussion with Cooper.

“We’re going to continue to agitate until such time that we get the results that we’re hoping for,” Ferguson said.