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BCPOU Files Trade Dispute Against BTC

Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) President Dino Rolle filed a trade dispute against the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) Limited on Monday.

The BCPOU filed a trade dispute with the Ministry of Labour citing BTC’s failure to negotiate in good faith on the proposed voluntary separation packages (VSEP). 

According to Rolle, “This action is contrary to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, namely article 4.7 which suggests that negotiations should ensue with the unions, before a formal proposal is made to the staff.”

Rolle pointed out that BTC CEO Gary Sinclair has yet to complete the negotiations with the unions relative to the VSEP packages being offered

“More seriously, we have not signed any Industrial Agreement with BTC,” he said.

“The truth is a foreign concept to BTC’s CEO, Gary Sinclair.

“On Friday, July 19, Mr. Sinclair emailed me and very pointedly stated in his email, that he is ‘respectfully concluding our consultative discussions’ and he will be moving ahead with the launch of the VSEP program at BTC in the coming days. You can’t get clearer than that. 

“Unfortunately, it seems as though Mr. Sinclair was attempting to deter the unions and had hoped that we would have gone away quietly and forfeited the rights of our members. Now he’s stating in the dailies this week that BTC is only in the ‘planning phase’ of its VSEP program.”

Rolle indicated that he’s confident that following the normal processes, the Ministry of Labour will provide a hearing and arbitration date, bringing BTC back to the negotiation table. 

“Our only aim is to ensure that our members are treated fairly and offered equitable packages commensurate with their years of service. Additionally, we have to be very deliberate with our actions to ensure that the VSEP packages are designed appropriately. Primarily because pensionable individuals accepting the packages will be transitioning a financial burden to the already multimillion dollar mounting debt of the public purse, subsequently the Bahamian people. This is an unfortunate position which carelessly came about under the terms of the BTC sale to CWC,” Rolle said.

“I find the actions of the BTC CEO, Mr. Sinclair to be most disingenuous. You can’t treat the staff with disdain, call them inefficient and ‘dead wood’ behind closed doors and call for unity in the public face.

 “Staff can’t be efficient when they are not provided with the tools to perform their job functions. This business has not made any major capital investments in BTC for almost five years. As a part of the shareholders agreement, CWC is paid a 2 percent management fee to manage BTC. They need to do their jobs. It’s appalling that all advanced level activities for the technical departments, namely IT and engineering have been outsourced to Miami. Local technicians must also rely and coordinate with external persons from Barbados, Jamaica and Curacao to offer simple services to our customers.

 “This isn’t globalization. This is CWC’s clever way of reducing costs and removing jobs from Bahamians.” 

However, Rolle pointed out that the unions are committed to their efforts of negotiating what’s best for its members and urged Sinclair to spend less time trying to sway public opinion and more time building internal consensus with his teams. 

“Only then will we see a true shift in the culture at BTC,” he said. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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