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Union leaders willing to work with Foulkes

  • Dion Foulkes is sworn in as minister of labor by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling on Monday. Photo: AHVIA J. CAMPBELL

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: May 17, 2017

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Following the appointment of Dion Foulkes as minister of labor, Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) President Bernard Evans and Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson yesterday said they are looking forward to building a peaceful relationship, despite Foulkes’ unpopularity the last time he served.

Foulkes was also a labor minister in the last Ingraham Cabinet.

“The circumstances have changed and you don’t want to hold it against him,” Ferguson said.

“The past is just a history, and you don’t want to live in the past.

“Obviously, the minister himself has a background in labor ... and so, I think I would want to maintain a positive outlook trying to work with the minister, try to resolve some of the issues we have.

“...I think the Trade Union Congress will certainly do what it has to do, to work with the minister and try to achieve some of the things we were fighting for.”

During his tenure as labor minister under the Ingraham administration, Foulkes constantly went head-to-head with the unions on several occasions.

Foulkes was heavily criticized for his support of the 51 percent sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).

At the time, Foulkes insisted that the sale was in the best interest of The Bahamas and BTC workers.

However, BTC workers disagreed, prompting days of industrial action in protest of the Ingraham administrations’ plans.

Speaking to The Guardian after his swearing in at Government House on Monday, Foulkes said his main objective is to ensure unions and workers have a harmonious relationship with employers.

Evans said yesterday, “What I know of him, he has been a former sharpshooter in the union, so he knows unions, somewhat.

“He has had that portfolio before, so he knows the challenges that we have been going through.

“We do expect that he would be labor friendly.

“When I say labor friendly, not to be somewhat biased towards labor but to understand the plight of the people, to understand that more and more protections are needed in this country to adhere to the [level] of standards.

“...We are offering definitely a partnership, and we are hopeful that he will see us in the same light, not as an adversary but certainly as a partner as we build this country protection by protection.”

Bahamas Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union's (BCIAWU) President Sloane Smith also weighed in on Foulkes’ appointment.

Smith said, “We appreciate we may have differences, but I believe we must give them an opportunity to review and correct all issues.”

The BCIAWU went head-to-head on several occasions with the former administration and former Labour Minister Shane Gibson.

Smith, at one point, called for Gibson’s resignation.


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