Categorized | National News

Miller Told To Take Hit For Gov’t

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Chairman Leslie Miller, whom many say was thrown under the bus by Works Minister Philip Davis after he overrode his decision to dock BEC workers’ salaries, said he was asked to “take a hit” for the government.

Mr. Miller, who is now in his second stint as BEC’s chairman, has been on a mission to save the corporation, which he says is in “dire financial straits.”

One way of doing so, was to put an end to the practice of “double dipping” – a process where workers collect sick benefits from the National Insurance Board (NIB) in addition to their full salary while they are not on the job.

Late last month he sought to end the practice and authorised deductions from the workers’ salaries.

Immediately afterwards, the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), headed by Stephano Greene, threatened legal as well as industrial action if the monies were not returned to his members.

Mr. Davis – who is responsible for BEC – then ordered that the monies that were deducted from the workers’ salaries be reinstated.

Since Minister Davis’ decision Mr. Miller has been very quiet.

But, during an appearance on yesterday’s Jones & Company talk show, he broke his silence.

“It bothered many of us to a great extent, but once it happened, it happened. I then moved on and [tried to] cut costs somewhere else. They got $1.56 million free from BEC and they also got their money from NIB. So, this year what we’ll do is we’ll cut about $3 million to $4 million in overtime. So, we’re going to get you back anyhow. If I can’t get you back one way, we’ll go after you a next way,” he said.

“My minister has said that the government intends to eliminate [double dipping] in every ministry and in every corporation and in every department.”

However, Mr. Miller could not say when the government would put an end to the practice of double dipping.

Mr. Miller has repeatedly said that he and BEC’s board did not feel it was not fair for employees to get their full salaries in addition to NIB benefits when out sick.

He said the entire BEC Board, including labour attorney, Obie Ferguson agreed with his decision to dock the workers’ pay.

“I would have liked to have begun now. That’s what I did,” he said. “It was the right hit to take. It wasn’t a problem for me. I know I did the right thing. I felt in my heart and the board felt that it was not fair for one group of people to get their full salary from a corporation that is owned by the Bahamian people and then turn around and go to NIB and get additional money when the poor woman in Brougham Street, Bain Town, Kemp Road and the Grove could not do it.”

He said whatever decision is made he will go along with it, but vowed to continue to fight for and on behalf of Bahamians.

According to Mr. Miller, BEC spent $3 million on sick pay between September 2012 and September 2013.
BEC, he added, spent more than $3 million on sick pay in the previous year.
BEC is in dire straits financially, he said.

This year the corporation will lose $22.6 million this year, it also has a number of outstanding loans; one is for $211 million.

To date, BEC’s total liabilities exceed $400 million.

Credit ratings agencies like Moody’s have warned that until The Bahamas gets BEC financially in tune with today’s realities, The Bahamas will remain in serious trouble.

Rogan Smith

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