NASSAU, The Bahamas – Approximately 57 members of staff of the Airport Authority in New Providence and 170 in the Family Islands, who are members of the BPSU, did not report to their normal shift on Monday morning, July 18. In a press conference the same morning at the Ministry of Labour, Minister of Labour and Immigration the Hon. Keith Bell said: The management of the Airport Authority has in their possession a copy of a voice note from Mr. Kimsley Ferguson, President of the BPSU wherein he appears to have instructed members of the BPSU that are employed at the Airport Authority, to go to the Doctor and obtain sick certificates for 5 days and “Lock The Place Down”.
At 8:12 am this morning, Mr. Ferguson was advised by the Director of Labour Robert Farquharson that the matter regarding the Trade Dispute on outstanding payments owed to the members of the BPSU employed by the Airport Authority was referred to the Industrial Tribunal and as such any industrial action, including a planned Sick Out, taken by BPSU could be deemed illegal.
In that conversation, Mr. Ferguson acknowledged the advice given by Director Farquharson.
Minister Bell continued: In keeping with the government’s commitment to develop partnerships with all trade unions, “I am urging all members of the BPSU that are participating in this illegal strike action to return to work forthwith,” allowing stakeholders to continue discussions to resolve all outstanding matters.
Minister Bell revealed, on July 27, 2020, the then Minister of Labour issued a Strike certificate to the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) for its members employed at the Airport Authority in accordance with Section 20 (3) of the Industrial Relations Act Chapter 321 of the Statue Laws of The Bahamas.
On February 27, 2021 the Minister of Labour, in accordance with Section 76 of the Industrial Relations Act referred the dispute to the Bahamas Industrial Tribunal. As a result of this referral, the members of the BPSU were subject to abide by the provisions of Section 77 (1) of the Act which reads:
“No employee shall go on strike, and no employer shall declare a lock-out, and no union of member of the executive committee of 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 of the Court of Appeal.” Based on the aforementioned and in my capacity as the Minister of Labour, I am formally advising the members of the Bahamas Public Services Union that the planned sick-out, resulting in members of the BPSU failure to report for normal duty is an illegal strike and subject to the provision of section 77 (2) of the Industrial Relations Act which reads:
“Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction;”
- In the case of an employee, to a fine not exceeding two hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and imprisonment;
- In the case of a union or a member of the executive committee or other governing body of a union, or an employer, to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years of to both such fine and imprisonment.
As Minister of Labour, I am now prepared to personally intervene in this matter, along with Director Farquharson and the Senior Officers within my Ministry and formally invite the President of the BPSU to the Bargaining Table to resolve all outstanding matters amicably, said Minister Bell.