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BUT To Poll Members Over Strike Action

The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) will poll their members today about possible strike action all in an effort to keep pressure on the government, according to BUT President, Belinda Wilson.

Mrs. Wilson, who addressed the media yesterday at BUT Headquarters, also used the opportunity to respond to comments made by Director of Labour, Robert Farquharson last week.

“It is so sad that the Director of Labour would’ve allowed himself to be used to continue to spread the government’s propaganda,” she said.

“He was the conciliator in all the disputes we filed. He would’ve also been aware that he gave certain recommendations to Minister of Labour, Shane Gibson to pass on to the Ministry of Education which have been ignored, so he should be warning the education minister that they are blatantly disregarding those recommendations. Those recommendations were forwarded over five weeks ago.”

Last Thursday, Mr. Farquharson said the government held several meetings with BUT representatives in an effort to resolve the issues.

Now that the matter is before the Supreme Court, the Department of Labour and the ILO, Mr. Farquharson said he hopes the union knows that this means all industrial action must come to an end.

“Executive officers and members of the BUT are cautioned and reminded of provisions of the Industrial Relations Act of the Statute Laws of The Bahamas,” he said at the time.

“It shall not be lawful for any person or any trade union to declare, instigate, incite others to take part in or otherwise act in furtherance of a strike, lock-out when there is a trade dispute. Any person who acts in contravention of any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable, in summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding $150 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both.”

Mrs. Wilson responded to the possibility members receiving of jail time or being subject to a fine.

“We haven’t [taken strike action] as yet,” the BUT president said.

“We know the protocol and the process for us to do so we know we would have to write the department to let them know, but we have not had any strikes so far. We would have had protests and demonstrations. I also want to remind all government officials that under article 24 of the constitution we have what is called freedom of peaceful assembly and we will continue to assemble, protest and demonstrate despite any vile threats from the director of labour who was totally out of order.”

She also spoke to Mr. Farquharson being appointed as the Director of Labour.

“Up to [last] Thursday I had a lot of respect for Mr. Farquharson as a former trade unionist,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“I feel like no matter what relationship you have with a person, you should have integrity and perform your work to best of your ability. Last Thursday the position he took, I was taken aback. I didn’t see Mr. Farquharson address all the concerns labourers have brought to him. He also misled the public when he said we have a matter in the Supreme Court dealing with absence of duty letters. We do not have a matter in the Supreme Court dealing with that but rather a matter that deals with the union being denied access to the workplace.”

As for not following proper protocol when the BUT wrote the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mrs. Wilson said the union copied all correspondences between the ILO and BUT to the former president of the National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTUB), Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson.

“The government is in breach and we will not retreat or give up because what they have done is impeded us from doing our work and prevented us from meeting with our members,” she said.

“I believe that the frustration level of teachers is very high at this time as a result of all of this. If the majority of the members are in support of a strike vote, we will write the department to conduct a poll for a strike vote and if that is successful, then we will then go on strike.

Today at 4:00 p.m. a general meeting will be held at BUT Headquarters on Thompson Boulevard for all BUT members at which time BUT executives will find out how the members feel about possible strike action.

Mrs. Wilson said teachers working in the Family Islands would also have to be consulted.

Sasha Lightbourne

Written by Sasha Lightbourne

Journal Staff Writer

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