Categorized | National News

Labour Leaders Defend Unions Relevance

Labour leaders insist that they still have the support of the country despite recent setbacks that have raised concern over the effectiveness and relevance of the labour movement.

A cross-sector of labour leaders from the Commonwealth Trade Union Congress appeared as a panel on the programme Jones and Company Sunday to commemorate the initial Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day.

Parliament recently passed legislation naming Labour Day in honour of Sir Randol and establishing Majority Rule Day (January 10) as a national holiday.

The panel faced a number of tough questions from the show’s hosts Wendall Jones and Godfrey Eneas over public indifference to the labour movement.

Mr. Jones pressed the leaders about what appears to be increased agitation for more money; while Mr. Eneas accused the unions of exploitation.

But Bahamas Nurses Union General (BNU) Secretary Julian Mullings insisted that the labour movement still has the support of the population.

“When the (BNU) achieved a contract to say that they must be granted health insurance, you had the same employer at another time say I am going to refuse to grant you and agree to fulfill that contract,” he said.

“And so when you say that we as a union don’t have the power anymore – it was because of the power of the people that stood behind the union and saw that – that made the change to cause the government to change its mind because the nurses said we are going to stand until it is done.”

Director of Public Relations for the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Fred Munnings attributed much of the criticism levied at unions to ignorance.

He said the current industrial agreement negotiations with the Sandals Resort demonstrate the uphill battle unions face.

“Two hundred-and-sixty-seven people voted – 266 of them voted for the strike and there was one spoiled ballot,” Mr. Munnings said.

“One-hundred per cent of the workers said that this employer is not the kind of employer that this country wants – when they refuse to constitutional rights of Bahamians in The Bahamas.”

Mr. Munnings added that the unions have tried to be reasonable and civil with employers but these efforts have proven fruitless.

He charged that the media have often been complicit and shown bias in favour of the employers.

Meanwhile, TUC President Obie Ferguson maintained that state of trade unions in the country is “reasonably okay” and he credited the Christie administration with engaging in consistent talks with the labour movement.

“With the change of government, we have had a very proactive relationship with the government. The Minister of Labour Shane Gibson has been very cooperative in terms of meeting with the unions and attempting to resolve matters.”

Mr. Ferguson applauded to government for moving swiftly to amend the Industrial Relations Act, which he said the unions have tried to have done more than 10-years.

In addition, Mr. Ferguson lauded the Christie administration for naming Labour Day in honour of Sir Randol Fawkes and the establishment of Majority Rule Day as a holiday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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