BPL industrial deal revised in 48 hours

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) says it signed a revised industrial agreement with Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) on Friday after finding clauses in the initial deal that it had not agreed to.

Tribune Business arrived at BPL’s Blue Hill Road headquarters on Friday morning to find union president, Kyle Wilson, and his executives coming downstairs after just signing an updated deal with the utility’s management and conciliator, Dr Ranford Patterson. The new agreement replaced the first version that had been signed amid much publicity just 48 hours earlier.

Mr Wilson said the BEWU had demanded further revisions after the union’s review of the initial industrial agreement, subsequent to its signing, allegedly found clauses and language that the union had not agreed to.

He said: “As you know, on Wednesday, we would have had an official signing of the first contract between BPL and our union. It was one that we were excited about based on the turmoil and issues that we went through.

“Now, even prior to the signing, about 20 minutes before, there were still some issues with concern to language in the contract that was not ratified by the company. The company did go and correct the language just prior to the signing, and we went forward with the signing.”

However, once the union reviewed the revised industrial agreement, Mr Wilson said it noticed changes to BPL’s non-contributory employee pension that meant he “could not show up for work” if it had been allowed to stand.

The union also had issues with clauses involving a proposed change in the shift system and way employees get increments, with Mr Wilson also asserting these had not been agreed between BPL and the BEWU.

He added: “Post signing, because of the issues and the hiccups that were put into the document without the union’s knowledge or ratification, we wanted to make sure our due diligence was done.

“The document has to go and be signed and registered to become the binding law of the employees, and it seems as if executive management were not forthcoming and doing what was right to have a document that is able to be registered.”

As a result union leadership went to find deputy prime minister, Desmond Bannister, at a polling division during last week’s advance polling to instruct BPL’s management on what they should do.

Mr Wilson added: “We feel as if that’s unacceptable and we should never have to had to go through that process. We felt that everything should be done above board. That’s all the union was asking.”

The matters were resolved on Friday morning minutes before the media arrived at BPL headquarters, with Mr Wilson advising he was “satisfied” that all matters have finally been resolved.

Now that “due diligence” has been done, the contract heads to the Department of Labour for registration by the director of labour.

Mr Wilson said: “I would hope that they were not intentionally trying to pull one on me, but based on history and how I have been treated as president and the respect level, it leaves a big question mark.” A BPL spokesperson declined to comment.