Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Today's union leaders in The Bahamas are a different breed... they have no interest in nation building


tribune242 editorial

UNIONS seem to follow a pattern, they rattle their sabres at tourism's busiest time of the year, or when an election is nearing. The reasoning seems to be that these are the times when the boss is most vulnerable, so they toss him to the ground and pick his pockets.

True or false, that is the perception.

For several days now, there has been discontent at the airport. A strike for the busy new year's weekend was threatened. Although a strike did not materialise there was chaos at the airport yesterday. We know that at least one businessman cancelled plans to travel to the US over the weekend because of strike talk - union leaders refused to confirm or deny whether the strike was on or off. The businessman feared that if he left the country he might not be able to return for early morning meetings on Tuesday. There were probably others in the same situation. Of course, no one knows how many weekend visitors coming into the country might also have cancelled because of the uncertainty.

As one businessman close to the tourist industry commented yesterday: "Today's union leaders are a different breed, they have no interest in nation building."

It seems unconscionable that anyone would try to destroy new business coming into a country that has suffered such a long economic downturn. But that is just what all this "work-to-rule" and "strike" at the airport did over a weekend that promised good business for the country.

It is interesting to note that the union making the most noise, is a breakaway union, which as yet has no contract with the government. Union leaders are to meet with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes next week -- Tuesday, January 10 -- to negotiate their first contract.

When a Tribune reporter tried to get information on Friday as to whether the newly-formed Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union (BCIAWU) intended to go through with its strike threat, all union vice-president Sloane Smith would say was: "I offer no information today on what may possibly be going on at the airport. I will not say there is a strike or there isn't a strike. Things are unfolding the way they should. That is all I am prepared to say."

In other words, the travelling public can go you-know-where as far as unionists are concerned. They forget that these are the tourists who put bread on their tables and when the tourists are gone so is the bread.

Members of the BCIAWU were once a part of John Pinder's Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU), which does have a government contract. The BCIAWU is negotiating a contract for the first time.

They have listed several items that they want clarified and incorporated into their contract. "Employees are repeatedly being disciplined for lateness, although the contract states this should not occur more than four times per month," is one of their complaints. Obviously, they are referring to the BPSU contract, which the BCIAWU abandoned on breaking away from the BPSU. At the moment, they have no contract as a reference point.

We had to read this "lateness" demand several times, and still we cannot believe that persons interested in holding down a job are trying to negotiate slackness into their contract. It's an absolutely preposterous demand, which should be tossed out before any negotiations begin. Anyone interested in giving an honest day's work has no right to demand the right to be late for work.

Just imagine everyone in a department deciding to have a lie in on a Monday morning. There would be chaos in that department. The taxpayers of this country have the right to demand more. What man or woman in the private sector can arrive late on the job without a valid excuse, and when that so-called "valid excuse" starts to form a pattern, the man or woman is eventually written up, and if there is no improvement, he or she is fired.

That is the general problem with the public service -- there are many exceptions, of course-- but as a general rule too many are not serious. They are not serious about work and they are not serious about serving the public. However, they are very serious about their days off, their overtime, and being allowed to be late for work one day in every week of the year.

Four late days a month, translates into 48 late days a year. What private company would tolerate this? What taxpayer would expect to get away with such dumb shenanigans at his own place of business, yet he is expected to foot the bill for a public servant to have the right to do so. It's now time for the public to have a say in some of these contracts, after all they are the ones footing these bills.

We hope that the right to be late for work is removed completely from all contracts. The main trouble with the public service is that it lacks discipline. What we have found in our years in business is that what is granted as a generous consideration when built into a contract suddenly becomes a right. One can be certain that every week of each month a staff member will be late because it is now his right-- no reasons are needed for the lateness. How can a department head manage a department efficiently if he/she has to work with staff who have such "rights."

We still can't believe that union leaders would insult the public's intelligence by threatening to strike for such nonsense.

January 03, 2012

tribune242 editorial