Thousands supported the Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day Parade held on Friday June 5 in Eight Mile Rock and coordinated by the Trade Union Congress and the National Congress of Trade Unions for the West Grand Bahama community.
Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Hon. Perry G. Christie traveled to Grand Bahama and was among the unionists leading the parade from Seagrape in Eight Mile Rock to Lovers' Beach, Hepburn Town, where union leaders presented the concerns of Bahamian workers.
Grand Bahama Labour Day Committee Chairman and Bahamas Hotel Management Association President Kirkland Russell expressed sincere gratitude to all unionists, church and civic organizations that supported the parade.
" Today is historic for the trade union/Labour movement on Grand Bahama, as it is the first time the Labour Day Parade is being conducted in the West Grand Bahama community, which is outside of the City of Freeport.
" Both the TUC and NCTU have unified their efforts, marching together in solidarity on behalf of workers on Grand Bahama and The Bahamas at large.
" The concerns of our workforce in all aspects are felt by both the TUC and NCTU and its members. Hence, we stand together realizing that there ought not to be any division among us.
" Workers are the driving force of any nation's economy and The Bahamas is no different. We are elated that a day has been set aside to recognize workers and the contributions they continue to make daily," he said.
Russell proudly noted that Labour Day 2015 would be marked in history as the first time a sitting prime minister left the capital Nassau, New Providence to not only participate in the parade in Grand Bahama, but also to lead it.
" As you know, Eight Mile Rock is the largest settlement in The Bahamas with most of the workers on Grand Bahama residing in this community. We are delighted to march along its main artery (Queens Highway) to the Loversâ Beach, Hepburn Town rally site where a variety of issues plaguing our members and workers in general would be addressed, including violations of workers' rights, minimum wage, the casual workforce and antiquated Labour law statutes that do not support workers of today.
" With representatives from both sides of the political divide present including Minister for Grand Bahama Michael Darville, Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell, Minister of Tourism Obadiah Wilchcombe, Senator Tanisha Tynes, the Free National Movement Deputy Leader and Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama K. Peter Turnquest, West Grand Bahama Chief Councilor George Smith, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Deputy Director of Urban Renewal 2.0 Michelle Reckley, we hope our concerns would not fall on deaf ears.
" Moreover we hope each and every one of them would work with the TUC and NCTU to readily rectify the issues workers on Grand Bahama are contending with, long before Labour Day 2016," said Russell.
Political leaders supporting the historic parade described the decision by the TUC and NCTU to jointly host the march in the West Grand Bahama community as a stroke of pure genius.
Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Christie, who left the parade early to attend the funeral service of the late Bishop Cornell Moss, Mininister Mitchell said the government stands with union leaders in the fight for Bahamian workers' rights.
" Assembling among the workers here on Grand Bahama, upon whose sacrifices this island was built, is inspiring.
" Democracy is a constant fight and now more than ever before, Bahamian workers are faced with challenges that threaten their right to earn a fair and honest living.
" The enforcement of Labour laws and statues, working conditions, minimum wage, training and advancement of workers and the casual workforce are all vexing issues, which the government in partnership with union leaders plan to readily address.
" While the government is confident that all union leaders would competently negotiate and fight for the rights of workers, we want all laborers to know they can rely on the support of the government to make things fair and equitable on Grand Bahama and throughout The Bahamas," said Mitchell.
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) area vice president Quinton Laroda expressed his delight with the tremendous support given to the parade by the Grand Bahama community at large and Prime Minister Christie.
The momentum of the historic parade must be gathered and turned into real change for the workers on Grand Bahama, particularly those in the industrial sector said Laroda, who singled out workers employed at the Freeport Container Port and Grand Bahama Shipyard Co. Ltd.
With the unemployment rate on Grand Bahama at 18 percent, Laroda said he hopes government would address the issue of a large number of ex-pat workers in the industrial sector, doing jobs Bahamians can do.
" Oftentimes the assertion is made that Bahamians do not want to work, which I do not believe. It is clear most Bahamians, once treated fairly, would put forth their best effort for an honest day's work to earn an honest pay.
" For those that do not, I believe union leaders must strongly advise them to step up to the plate.
" Both the TUC and NCTU continue to fight for consistent training of its members and the onus is placed upon us to do everything necessary to assist our workers in receiving fair treatment especially those in the industrial sector," said the BUT vice president.
Laroda, who hopes that support of the Labour movement continues and increases, also applauded the Christian community for its support of the TUC, NCTU and workers on Grand Bahama.
" Leaders of the Christian community must come to the realization that workersâ rights and fair treatment of Bahamians are also a part of God's work. So, having Rev. Eddie Victor representing the Christian Council is great," said Laroda.
" One of the biggest betrayals of the work of our forefathers like Sir Randol Fawkes, Sir Clifford Darling, Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir Milo Butler and Sir Lynden O. Pindling, who fought to have Bahamian workers treated fairly and elevated to key managerial positions to make working conditions better not only for themselves, those they manage and future Bahamian workers, is when their is an abuse of power with Bahamians being treated far worse than foreign/ex-pat managers."
The BUT vice president went onto note that foreign/ex-pat managers come from countries where the rights of workers are enforced and fair treatment is a standard not to be tampered with.
" It is a crying shame when Bahamian managers/lawyers engage in unfair practices against their own countrymen, readily selling out Bahamian workers and advising the ex-pats of loopholes that can be used against laborers that advances their selfish agenda.
" Bahamian managers, who behave unscrupulously should be publicly identified, put to shame and made a spectacle of for the grave injustice they have done to the legacy of our forefathers and Bahamian workers," said Laroda.
Grand Bahama Taxi Union President David Jones and Rev. Eddie Victor both agreed with the sentiments expressed by Laroda noting that unified effort by all will bring the changes needed to help workers of Grand Bahama and the Bahamas in general.
Both expressed their gratitude to the TUC, NCTU, Prime Minister Christie, FNM Deputy leader Turnquest and the community for coming together. They said upcoming meetings are imperative to guide workers to a brighter, fair future but also to illustrate to ex-pats, foreign investors and unscrupulous Bahamian managers that â we are one in the fight for the rights of Bahamians," said Jones.
Forgetting political ties, uniting all efforts and doing what is right for Bahamian workers in this country is what the Labour movement is all about especially as great men and women fought for us to lay rightful claim to the opportunities we should be enjoying thanks to their sacrifice, said Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe, who speaking on behalf of FNM Deputy leader Turnquest stated, "We are all Bahamians and should fight together for a better workforce ensuring that the gifts, talents, resources and expertise of our people are not taken advantage of.
" We all have families to feed and there should be no division among us as far as Labour laws and workersâ right are concerned," said Parker-Edgecombe.
Published Monday, June 8, 2015