Government, Police Must Show Strength to Unions
Unions have a right to protest. They have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of their workers. They do not, however, have the right to takeover property they do not own.
Yesterday workers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) went too far, blocking the flow of people on to BEC’s property. Police were called in to assist but the workers, at some points, even blocked labor negotiators from easily accessing BEC’s property.
A firm stance must be taken with unions. Workers are allowed on to a property to carry out their duties – duties they are paid to perform. If they do not want to work and prefer to protest, they should be asked to leave the property. Police, once called by management, should then remove those who do not leave. This should be a firm position by the government of The Bahamas. Workers should only be allowed to return on property when they come to actually work.
There are enough police and defence force officers in The Bahamas to ensure state property stays under the control of the state. The government should not be weak and allow any union or group of workers to think they can take control of a state agency or corporation and act in a disorderly manner.
If the Christie administration and police allow unruly behavior such as what occurred yesterday at BEC, workers and their unions will think they can do the same in other places.
Workers at BEC have been at odds with BEC Chairman Leslie Miller for several months now over a new shift system, overtime pay and Miller’s desire to change the culture at BEC. Now, they are upset that a BEC employee was fired and another suspended. The workers want Miller removed from his post.
Yesterday’s disruption was a test for the Christie administration. The government has been talking with the union and attempting to reach a reasonable understanding with it regarding the disputed issues. However, the Cabinet and leadership of the police force must ensure that even in the context of a labor dispute order is maintained, private property protected and the state respected.
Miller is not one to back down. We assume there will be more disruptions at BEC. The government and police must do a better job projecting strength. Otherwise, unions will push more and more to dictate events to a cowering state.
– Editorial from The Nassau GuardianBEC, editorial, opinions, unions