Categorized | National News

Fitzgerald: More Time Needed For COB Non-Faculty Negotiations

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald has asked non-faculty workers at the College of The Bahamas to give the Cabinet more time to review the proposal surrounding an industrial agreement that expired three years ago.

The almost 400 workers have been on work to rule for the past several weeks and have recently staged a sickout in protest of the industrial agreement surrounding overtime pay and employee benefits.

According to Minister Fitzgerald, the government was not aware of the matter until almost two months ago and will probably not be able to negotiate on it until the mid-term budget, which is usually toward the end of February.

The education minister claims that the main issue is financing and that the Ingraham administration left no provision for it in the last budget, which he claims now leaves the Christie administration in a bind.

“When we came in we were not aware that an agreement had been arrived at with them and so it really calls for us to make an appropriation of additional sums because nowhere in the budget was it accounted for,” he said.

“We now have to apply for additional funds which would have to be done during the midterm budget. But the matter still has to be discussed at the cabinet level and I will be waiting on the decision of the Ministry of Finance, with regard to what the government’s ability will be to deal with that,” he added.

President of the Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) John Pinder stated that he had been trying to get in contact with the minister for quite some time but has had no success in doing so.

However, Minister Fitzgerald claimed that he had no occasion nor reason to speak to Mr. Pinder.

“I became aware of this matter some six or seven weeks ago and when asked about it in the media I’ve been saying the same thing that I’m saying now and that is our government was not aware of it, it’s been outstanding for some time and we’re moving as quickly as we can to address it,” he said.

“I’ve made a commitment to that and the government as everyone knows has certain constraints financially and we’re trying to meet the commitments the government has made. It’s a matter of ensuring that we manage those in an effective and prudent manner and I leave that to the Ministry of Finance,” he added.

Minister Fitzgerald said that as the industrial agreement has expired some three years ago, the government is simply asking them to exercise patience as the Cabinet seeks out to resolve the matter.

The BPSU announced in December that they would be seeking to apply for the strike vote if there were wishes were not met in a timely matter.

However, the non-faculty workers remain on work to rule.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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