Christie Sics Police On Laid Off Workers

Perry Christie

I hope The Bahamas realises what happened Friday with the 140 workers laid off from the Wyndham Resort. Bahamians now thrust onto the unemployment line walked to their Office of the Prime Minister, and what did the Prime Minister do? Order that the police stop them from being able to access the office, and officers consequently formed a human chain to keep Bahamians from coming to see the man they put in office.

A human chain of officers to block Bahamians from their own elected leader? So now Bahamians are the enemy to their own Prime Minister? These workers were not armed and were certainly not violent in any way – so what was the need for riot-styled formation of police officers?

Then Minister of Labour Shane Gibson, who showed up to showboat with the workers, told the media he knew from earlier in the week  that the workers were going to be jobless – but the workers knew nothing, and according to their union, the union was not given the notice required as per their industrial agreement.

What that indicates is that the government did nothing at all to try to at most, save these jobs and at the least, satisfy itself that the hotel handled the terminations in a manner consistent with their industrial agreement.

So the Prime Minister sent the police to shut Bahamian people out who were in search of help, and the Minister of Labour did nothing to try to help prevent these Bahamians from needing to walk to the Prime Minister’s office for help in the first place. And the Prime Minister did not even count them as worthy enough to come outside and talk to them. He stayed perched in the ivory tower the Bahamian people, including those workers, put him in.

How glaringly ironic it is that the Prime Minister instructed the police to treat these displaced hotel workers like criminals, but the police escorted criminal numbers bosses through the streets of Nassau like royalty when they recently marched on Parliament to send a message to their Prime Minister and the nation.

The criminals got the royal treatment in approaching their Prime Minister and his government to promote the continuation of criminality. Lawfully employed Bahamians who are now out of work on the other hand, got treated like enemy combatants when they tried to make the same approach – not to promote crime, but to ask for help to keep their jobs.

Friday was a police-made human chain, but this government made a human chain in the form of its Cabinet against the interests of the Bahamian people over eight months ago, so a human chain to shut us out again is not new.

What needs to be new now, is how we as Bahamians respond to what is happening to us in our country.

Meantime, since Labour Minister Shane Gibson had the gall to tell the press that he knew well in advance that Wyndham workers were going to be out of a job as of Friday, the Minister should also have told the media what reason the resort gave him for the lay offs.

What he should also advise the country on is whether the $45 million that the government owes to Baha Mar as part of its Heads of Agreement with the hotelier in any way factored into the company’s decision to cut staffing. The money was contractually due last year once the resort reached a certain stage in construction. It reached that stage, and at last public statement, Baha Mar officials indicated that it was working with the government on the money issue.

And Minister Gibson, as a Bahamian I’d like to suggest that the next time you are made aware by a hotelier that it is about to put 140 Bahamians on the unemployment line, you and your government move to do something about it rather than move for a resolution to set up a Parliament Select Committee on how to raise the salary and personal allowances of MPs while a large group of Bahamians is about to lose their livelihood in the midst of a strained economy.

Sharon Turner