Bahamian trade unions have stepped up their fight against the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).
The National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTU) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have joined forces to release a statement by the Bahamas Joint Labour Movement (BJLM) blasting the government’s attempt to further politicize the situation.
“The BJLM is deeply saddened by the government’s feeble attempt to draw the movement into a debate between the PLP and Free National Movement concerning a comparative analysis on the amount of money that would possibly have been derived from the sale of BTC either to Bluewater or Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) or LIME (Landline, Internet, Mobile, and Entertainment),” the union statement said.
The FNM government released a statement late Wednesday night claiming to “bring an end to the deceit” over the deal with C&W. The statement contained a detailed comparison between the PLP’s former deal with the mysterious Bluewater and the current proposal with C&W.
Union bosses say the issue of Bluewater is irrelevant, and are focusing their complaint on the issue of Bahamianisation.
Saying that they believe there are “qualified and available” Bahamian professionals capable of operating an efficient and profitable BTC in a competitive envrionment, the unions are demanding that BTC shoud be reserved for Bahamians.
There was no metion of where these “qualified” Bahamians have been for the last thirty years as BTC mismanagement and incompetence has cost the nation dearly.
On Wednesday, a crowd of unruly union demonstrators overran police barricades, clashing with police officers and disrupting activities on Bay Street.
The BJLM statement demanded that the government provide the unions with a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding with C&W. Tey also want the government to reverse its course of action in relation to selling BTC to CWC and enter into talks with union leaders to allow Bahamians to purchase shares of BTC via an initial public offering.
Ironically, the unions, who in the past have vociferously expressed their disdain for anything foreign, have filed a formal complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) claiming the government has violated Section 144 of the ILO Convention.
“Employers and workers shall be represented on an equal footing on any bodies through which consult are undertaken,” states a section of the convention on tripartite consultation between representatives of the government, employers and workers.
Bernard Evans, president of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU), said the convention called for government to engage workers in a “transparent manner, to discuss issues of life-changing effect.”
At least ten unions, including the NCTU and the TUC, have thrown their support behind the move to force the government to reverse its decision to sell the majority shares in BTC to Cable and Wireless.
Threatening industrial action right up to the day the House is scheduled to reconvene on January 19, Mr Evans said, “there are so many things we have planned with this unified effort.”
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