The Ministry of Labour and National Insurance (ML&NI) is extremely concerned with a number of public statements made in the print and electronic media regarding the possibility of strike action by trade unions associated with the Commonwealth of the Bahamans Trade Union Congress. The Government remains committed to the concept of partnership with all trade unions and will keep the channels of communication open for discussions with trade union leaders.
In an effort to update the public and clarify any misconceptions resulting from the public statements made by Mr. Obie Ferguson, President of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Trade Union Congress (CBTUC) regarding a pending strike by affiliates of the CBTUC, the ML&NI can confirm that the following trade unions and association have matters before the Industrial Tribunal pursuant to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1970:
The Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union,
The Bahamas Nurses Union,
The Commonwealth Union of Hotel Services and Allied Workers,
The Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association,
The Bahamas Customs Immigration Allied Workers Union,
The Bahamas Educators Managerial Union
On May 6th, 2014, in The Tribune, President Ferguson was quoted as saying
“…. there is nothing the government can do to stop the withdrawal of labour of hundreds of unionized and non-unionized workers in the coming days”.
The ML&NI wishes to refute this statement and remind President Ferguson and affiliates of the CBTUC of the provisions of Section 77 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act Chapter 321 of the Statute Laws of The Bahamas which states;
“No employee shall go on strike and no employer shall declare a lock-out, and no union or member of the executive committee or other governing body of a union shall call a strike or declare a lock-out in consequence of a trade dispute while proceedings taken in relation to that dispute are pending before the Tribunal or the Court of Appeal.”
As stated in the Ministry’s press statement published on Thursday, 28th August 2014 in The Tribune, The Nassau Guardian and broadcast on various radio stations, any strike action taken by the above mention trade unions and or associations, while the dispute was before the Tribunal constitutes a breach of section 77 and is deemed a criminal offence as stated by Supreme Court Justice Maynard in his judgment in Commonwealth Electrical Workers Union v The Minister of Labour and Immigration and Another FP/PUB/jrv/0001/2006 where he states at paragraph 31:
“……then it appears to me that under section 77, a trade dispute proceedings are pending before the Industrial Tribunal and in these circumstances it would be an offence for any employee to go on strike or for any union or member of the executive committee or governing body of the union to call a strike”
In the same Tribune article, President Ferguson was quoted in the second paragraph as saying:
“……. a mass rally, tonight will inform the workers why the union has decided to strike and also to decide on which days the strike will be called”
The ML&NI is most concerned of the implications of President Ferguson’s statement, wherein he appears to be calling members of a number of trade unions and associations, which are affiliated with the CBTUC, to take strike action when he is aware of the contents of section 74(3) of the Industrial Relations Act. Finally, the ML&NI wishes to caution President Ferguson regarding his statement in the Tribune’s article where he was quoted as saying:
“The purpose of this meeting is to inform the workers as to the issues are and for them to understand there needs to be a recess of about two to three days. We will also make the determination tonight when they will strike.”
As a leading Trade Unionist, President Ferguson must be mindful of the provisions of
Section 74(2) of the Act which states:
It shall not be lawful for any person or any trade union to declare, instigate, incite others to take part in or otherwise act in furtherance of, a strike or lock-out when there is not in relation to the matter in question a trade dispute in relation to which all the conditions of subsection (1) have been satisfied.
The instigation or incitement of members to take part in or in furtherance of a strike when the matter is before the Industrial Tribunal would be in contravention of the relevant provisions of the Act.
The ML&NI supports all workers and will continue to defend their rights to take part and participate in lawful demonstrations and strike action pursuant to the statutes laws of The Bahamas and Judgments of the Court. President Ferguson is reminded that all employees and employers are subject to the laws as expressed by Justice Maynard in paragraph 9 of his ruling in Commonwealth Electrical Workers Union v The Minister of Labour and Immigration and Another
The ML&NI anticipates that the Trade Disputes referred to the Industrial Tribunal regarding affiliates of the CBTUC will be scheduled for a hearing and resolved in an amicable manner in the shortest possible time but is prepared, even at this stage, to enter into discussions with Mr. Ferguson and his Team, at any convenient date and time, in an effort to resolve the matters in an amicable fashion. The ML&NI attaches a copy of the judgment of Maynard J (Ag.) in the case of Commonwealth Electrical Workers Union v The Minister of Labour and Immigration and Another.