The government will not be able to assist any more unions for the time being due to the state of the economy, according to Minister of Labour, Shane Gibson.
Minister Gibson said the government can not afford to pay everyone or renew every agreement at this time.
“Since coming to office we have been able to conclude quite a few agreements,” he said before heading to the weekly Cabinet meeting.
“We took a policy decision that because of the financial position of the government and country at this time we are unable to give anything more than what was given to the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU). It is unfortunate that some unions want to go beyond that point. The country simply can’t afford it.”
Minister Gibson however did sympathise with union members.
“Being a former trade unionist, I know what unions have at their disposal,” he said.
“I also know that there is something called essential services so one of the things I will be recommending to this government is to classify services as essential services. That means that those services will not be able to take certain types of industrial action which could possibly put lives at risk. Hopefully, over the next couple weeks we will be able to resolve all of the outstanding agreements but the government really is not in a position to do more for any employees than we did for the BPSU, BUT, the employees at the College of The Bahamas (COB) and union members subsidised like those at Bahamasair.”
Recently head of the union representing air traffic controllers hinted at possible industrial action if the government did not move quickly to resolve its outstanding issues.
Although he stopped short of committing to the withdrawal of labour, President of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU) Roscoe Perpall said many of the union’s members have expressed their desire to take further action over the unresolved financial aspects of a new industrial agreement.
“As a body, the controllers feel disappointed that when times were better we did not get the necessary salary adjustments,” Mr. Perpall said.
“They feel as though they should still get what was owed to them. As the union, we were able to convince them that we would arrive at an interim agreement where the government would reassess its financial position and within a year return to the table to negotiate a full contract.
“Right now our members are in favor of that position. However, they are anxious to have the interim agreement resolved.”
The union has been without an industrial agreement since 2008.
Mr. Perpall said negotiations remain at an impasse on the issue of raises.
Ahead of the 2012 general election, the union pledged to disrupt traffic at Lynden Pindling International Airport during the Easter period, if the then government did not bring about a new industrial agreement.
However, the union executive explained that the Christie administration has honored three lump sum payments the former administration agreed to make as back pay.