|BEC workers protest over chairman’s alleged comments|
Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Dec 15, 2012
Dozens of workers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) quietly protested outside the corporation’s Baillou Hill Road headquarters yesterday, claiming BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller has belittled them over the airwaves over the past few months, subsequently created a negative working environment.
Stephano Greene, president of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), said the demonstration was not about proposed cuts to employees’ overtime, insisting that when it comes to wastage and assigning overtime work the members have no control of the issue.
“The constant verbal assaults by Mr. Miller toward the Bahamian people, and in particular the staff of BEC, leaves nothing to the imagination,” said Green during the demonstration.
While Miller did not respond directly to his reportedly belittling comments, the executive chairman said he has an open door policy to all staff.
However, he insisted that overtime is the real issue, and cannot continue as it has in the past.
“All of the persons you saw there this afternoon – about 30 or 40 of them – every single one of them has overtime in excess of $30,000,” he said.
“One of them [has] as much as $83,000 in overtime with a big salary of $46,000. The management and the board intend to deal with this overtime.
“It creates an enormous burden on the backs on the Bahamian people and that is why your light bill is so high because this year alone the overtime is almost $12 million.”
Greene also alleged that in a meeting two weeks ago, Miller said employees’ health benefits and the corporation’s pension scheme would be “drastically” changed to cut cost.
“The BEWU is disheartened to work with an executive chairman who is attempting to take away hard earned benefits such as pension, medical, vacation and sick entitlements,” he said.
“We need to let the public know that like every other employee in this country we are entitled to these benefits especially pension and medical, as the work performed at BEC is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.”
But Miller responded that the corporation simply cannot afford to cover all non-contributory medical benefits.
As it relates to the pension fund, Miller said it is standard for employees to contribute five to seven percent, which the company then matches.
Greene said BEC workers, like all other Bahamians, have to bear the high cost of electricity and claimed the BEWU has proposed many measures that could help reduce the corporation’s cost.
He also said he has no problem sitting down and speaking with Miller about the union’s and the corporation’s concerns, but “social dialogue must start with mutual respect for all”.