The Progressive Liberal Party issued the following statement in support of the workers of the Water and Sewerage Corporation who exercised their right to strike in a dispute over the failure of the Corporation to pay over time. The Corporation immediately acted to bring in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force rather than seek to solve the problem with the union. The culprit is the Chairman of the Corporation Adrian Gibson MP for Long Island. He has been immature and been a source of contention ever since he got there and the union has called for his removal. Rather than the Prime Minister or Minister calling the parties in, the Minister of Labour intervened and referred the matter to the Tribunal which means that the workers have to go back to work. They refused and on Friday 14 February 2020, the Government went to court and got an injunction to force the workers back to work until a hearing on 24th February 2020. Leader of the Opposition Philip Davis visited the workers on 14th February 2020 at their strike site. The Court action shows that the Courts always side against the workers rather than allowing the parties to work out their differences. The PLP’s statement follows:
13 February 2020
The exercise by the Minister of Labour in referring the dispute between the Water and Sewerage Corporation and the Union at the Corporation to the Industrial Tribunal is an abuse of the power and the process. This is the second dispute of major public importance where the minister has in a high-handed and bossy way referred a matter to the Tribunal. The Labour Minister must not use his office to push these government workers around.
We make the following observations.
The idea of a strike gives workers the lawful power to seek resolution to disputes when all else have failed. For the minister to suddenly take that out of the hands of workers is anti-worker and also encourages employers to be difficult and stubborn. Clearly, this is not the people’s time.
The evidence with regard to the Water and Sewerage Corporation is that the management and the Board have and had no intention of settling or compromising. The evidence is that they are being whimsical and bloody minded. It is the role of the Ministry of Labour to get disputes settled.
Secondly, the Industrial Tribunal which also has the doctors’ labour dispute before it, clearly does not have the capacity to deal with matters in a timely fashion. The Minister knows this and so this seems transparently a device on the part of the Minister to allow Government Corporations to stall, delay and defer labour matters which then allows the employer to wreak havoc in the workplace, with no effective remedy by the employees. This is most unfair to workers.
The PLP pledges in its next term of office to seek to amend the law to re-balance the equation between workers and employers.
We urge the Corporation to settle this dispute immediately.