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‘No way forward’ in union talks with government


BAHAMAS Public Service Union (BPSU) president Kimsley Ferguson said there is still “no way forward” in negotiations with the government about the union’s outstanding industrial agreement.

He said there was a meeting scheduled with his membership yesterday evening about the issue.

Asked if a possible strike will be discussed, he replied: “When we have our meeting we will determine the way forward. That is the best that I can respond to you in that regard. It is the union’s intent to exhaust diplomacy and the membership will determine the way forward.”

The meeting comes after union leaders called on the Davis administration to stop its “union busting tactics” calling the government’s recent announcement about forthcoming salary increases for public servants that were reportedly made without consultation “a blatant disregard for unions.”

Asked about the five industrial agreements that are in discussion with the government, Mr Ferguson answered: “There’s no way forward –we’re still awaiting for the government to give us some form of counter proposal to indicate regarding the increases for those various entities that we represent. To date, we don’t have anything in our hands.

“While the government would have indicated their willingness to ensure that public servants receive funding or packages for the holiday, we are now seeing that shoe is on the other foot and their (indication) to ensure that public servants receive something for the holiday, apparently, is not there. It doesn’t have anything to do with the union.”

He mentioned that the union was poised to sign the industrial agreement for the Airport Authority.

“We were advised that they were unable to engage with Bernard Evans, for the signing who is the chief consultant for the government and so hence, Friday’s meeting was cancelled because they weren’t able to access Mr Evans,” Mr Ferguson stated.

Labour and Immigration Minister Keith Bell had said earlier that he is not concerned with the “rhetoric” being spread about union negotiations for public servants’ salary increases, adding he hopes for an “amicable” resolution.

However, Mr Ferguson highlighted what the government indicated regarding public servants.

“Maybe that’s his personal opinion but the government’s view initially indicated that they wanted to get some funding in the hands of public servants for the holidays and it was of some urgency to them. They indicated that the union was holding up the process,” he stated.

“Now, we are awaiting any form of proposal or counter proposal from the government (in reference) to these particular things so that we can consider until a signing off can take place.

“So nothing has been forwarded to us.”

Earlier yesterday, Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson, one of the Bahamas National Alliance Trade Union Congress (BNATUC) representatives, spoke to Mr Bell’s comments noting a briefing with the minister.

The representatives of the BNATUC had previously held a press conference to respond to the government’s announcement in a memorandum and proposal document last Friday with proposed salary increases for public servants.

Mrs Wilson said: “My response to him is we had the press conference and the following day I along with my Secretary General for the BNATUC Theresa Mortimer, we had a brief meeting with the minister and we raised the issues for the the BPSU and we impressed upon the minister that it is important that his colleagues provide for the BPSU the five industrial agreements for them to review for consideration for them to sign.”

“And if the information I got from Friday. Today I was also able along with Theresa Mortimer to speak with the lead negotiator who is for the government for the BPSU. So we had two meetings and according to the information I received today, one of those industrial agreements are supposed to be signed today. So we believe that, as Minister Bell said, cut down on the rhetoric. And so I guess I’m gonna say to him and his colleagues, cut down on the rhetoric and sign the industrial agreements.”