Categorized | National News

BEC Unions Concerned Over Jobs

President of the Bahamas Electrical Managerial Union (BEMU) Clinton Minnis said managers and line staff at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) are concerned over their jobs after the government announced that it is seeking investors to manage two new electricity entities.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government’s objective is to realign BEC and “to create efficiencies which will allow for significant reductions in the cost of energy, increased energy security, environmental responsibility, reliability, and increased competitiveness as a country.”

During that statement, Mr. Christie said in the government’s bidding process BEC workers have nothing to worry about.

“For the staff of BEC, you can be certain that in our negotiations with bidders we will be insisting on fair treatment for all, and fully expect there will be no job losses as a result of this process. We will also be insisting on investment in training and retraining programmes where new technology is being implemented,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“Liberalisation of the energy sector will also create many new business opportunities. A sector that works will result in more inward investment, creating more job opportunities. We will keep you informed of our progress. In the meantime I ask you to bear with us, and to continue to do your jobs with pride.”

But in an interview with the Bahama Journal, Mr. Minnis says he’s not buying it.

“I don’t know if we are going to play games or keep it real. The thing is if I am coming to do business and I have to cut costs, I am going to HR and I am going to ask who can stay and who is going to go,” he said.

“We know that pay out and compensation will be on the top of the minds of some people at BEC. Some people may be ready to go. Some people may have special expertise and may be able to come back and assist BEC. We have a split of a fear of the way forward.”

When it comes to liberalisation of BEC, Mr. Minnis said that may not be such a bad idea.

“Bahamians can run BEC and we have been running BEC since the Electrical Act in 1956. However, BEC has found itself in a financial rut. If we don’t have Bahamians with the financial wear-it-all to help us to take BEC out of the situation we’re in, we definitely need help with the management and operation of BEC. I say that on the basis of there is no use of us fooling ourselves believing that we can do something and the cost of doing business in this country is incredible because of the energy sector. So in principle, we shouldn’t have a reason to oppose the liberalisation of BEC,” he said.

“Our concern is when you decide to find a strategic partner these persons must first of all have a concern for this country. This is a unique country and they must also have a concern for Bahamians – especially the consumers of the product of electricity. The changes that will happen as it concerns consumers to carry their weight in the process of privatisation are what we are looking forward to.”

Mr. Minnis said over the next month both BEMU and the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) will be in meetings over the bidding process.

“We don’t want the government to play semantics on words as if nothing will happen in the process of human resources,” he said.

“This government came to office being a ‘labour-friendly’ government. You don’t call us to a meeting at 5:00 p.m. and say the press is going to get this information in the morning that concerns the future of the company. That’s where we are concerned about whether trust concerning labour and government has been shifted and that is the concern that I have.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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