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15,000 STRIKE—Court orders strikers back to work

The members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) who participated in yesterday’s massive strike have been ordered back to work after Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder placed an injunction on the unions’ actions late Wednesday.

From as early as 5:00 Wednesday morning more than 15,000 members of the TUC executed a long planned and nationwide strike after enduring what they said was months of “disrespect and neglect” from the government.

TUC President Obie Ferguson said for too long his union members have been having meetings, consultations and negotiations with government officials to air their longstanding issues but no resolutions are ever arrived at.

“The workers are very important in any country, labour and capital have to work together,” he said. “If labour and capital aren’t working then nothing is happening.

“The working people are the ones who drive this economy. So we say to the prime minister, you know what the issues are I don’t need to read them off. The workers want their right adhered to, they want they are entitled to. This is a withdrawal of labour, we have done that and we have a progressive approach to this matter. This isn’t about walking up and down on Bay Street and getting a suntan, this is a withdrawal of labour.”

Members of the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU), The Bahamas Customs And Immigration Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU), The Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU), the union that represents Morton Salt workers, Kentucky Fried Chicken workers, the Public Managers Union, The Bahamas Public Service Drivers Union, the Educators Managerial Union, The Bahamas Electricity Utility Management Union among others were all on strike yesterday.

BNU President Jannah Khalfani who the Journal met at her union’s headquarters on Tonique Williams Darling Highway, said she and more 1,000 other nurses throughout the country taking industrial action Wednesday fully support the TUC and will sit out until her leader says otherwise.

“Treat us with decency and respect,” she added. “Do not allow a nurse to go on a flight service and you do not have coverage for that nurse, you don’t have coverage for a nurse to go on board a cruise ship to accompany the police and Immigration; you disregard a nurse who has been working for 30 years and you haven’t given her the first promotion and you have issues with our overtime.

“When nurses do overtime, they work, they’re not sitting around. This is not a job where you sit around, you have to work. These are the caregivers of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and we should be treated with more respect that we are being treated with now. We are just sick and tired. Enough is enough.”

More than 100 members of the BCIAWU braved pending rains and took to Thompson Boulevard yesterday with signs, placards and a united front in a show of support and frustration.

“The reason the workers are striking is to simply say that something has to give,” BCIAWU Vice President Sloane Smith added. “We need salaries, we need to have these costs that are being borne on the workers unduly, offset. Hopefully the government hears us and hopefully customs and immigration are important to the government and if they are important they we think they would really want to solve these issues.

“We’ve seen it in other areas where they are solving contracts for other people.”

Also picketing with his members was President of the Educators Managerial Union Charles Wildgoose who said the many issues in education must also be addressed.

“The minister, the permanent secretary and the director of education need to get it together,” he said. “There are so many issues we are facing especially as it relates to salaries and promotions and they are not addressing them.

“We need the Ministry of Education to fix these issues because all is not well in education.”

Mr. Ferguson said there is just no telling how long those 15,000- plus workers be on strike.

“As long as it takes,” he added. “We don’t want a meeting. We want these issues resolved.”

But in a late ruling yesterday, Justice Winder found that the unions’ actions were in breach of the law and he ordered that all members return to their jobs.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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