Were It Not For PM's Premature Announcement
The strike continues, because the BNTU and PSU have rejected the last proposal from the government presented during Thursday's meeting.
During a press conference this afternoon, president Elena Smith told us that they had been hopeful before going into the meeting - going so far as to say that the strike could have ended that day. But what shattered any hope of e resolution was the Prime Minister's unexpected statement to the country - one given before the unions had a chance to review the letter they received with the new offers - offers which they feel weren't in their favor.
Smith explained there was one offer on the table that had been verbally agreed upon that this new letter conveniently left out.Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U."One of the things that we had placed on the table was the matter of increment freeze and how we could rectify that increment freeze and we had asked the government side for at the end of the freeze for our members to be placed on the correct scale at the end of that freeze, because you would understand that if it is that my increment is frozen and I'm not put back on that correct scale after that, it means that for the rest of my career I would be losing and so telling me that at the end or at the time of retirement you would then use those calculations, those would be based on my scale that I should be on, really and truly is not fixing the issue, because we needed our people to move back. So as oppose to putting back us on the scale, it would then mean that if I am now at 6.1 and you freeze my increment for 3 years, at the end of that 3 years where do I go."
"The government side agreed and said yes we can do that and so there was verbal agreement on that. However, when we got the last letter from the government that, that they are referring to as the last letter, that matter was not included and when we queried it we were told that based on advise they could no longer do that and so we left the table with that offer, we took that offer to our members and our members accepted the offer and that was one of the offer that our members were willing to accept and would have helped us to reach a conclusion at the last meeting. However, that decision was pulled back and so our members now are saying well there is nothing that we are getting. You are talking about the government giving the union so many things, but the one that is most important to us you have remove off the table and so we continue to fight for that, because that is very important to us as workers. The increment putting us on the correct point on the scale was accepted by our members and our members also accepted the promissory note. Had we gone back to that meeting on Thursday with these things on the table, the meeting would have concluded then, because we would have had acceptance by the unions, because our members had already given us that mandate."GOB's Last Letter - Take It Or Leave It?
But do the unions even have the option to reject the offer? According to the tone of the letter, and the PM's statement it seemed like a done deal.
In this case, GOB isn't giving them the choice, but, rather, telling them that this is what they are going to get - take it or leave it.
But Smith says her membership isn't taking that ultimatum seriously.Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U."We should be responding to that document "The last offer, the last Supper" - we will be responding to that as joint unions and we would be pointing out those errors based on our discussions. Again, we must understand that as we go through these meetings we end up with some verbal agreements and at the end it was expected that at the last meeting, that we would have put those agreements in writing and both sides would have signed off on them and that document would have had all of the things that we would have agreed to in those meetings from the last meeting. However, all of them weren't included and so we will have to now write back to them and point out those areas that need adjusting to ensure that they are captured correctly as our agreements in those meetings. They are saying that it's their final offer and whether we accept it or not they will go through with it. Obviously our members dent believe that that is so, because if they did, they wouldn't still be out today. Its 3 days after that last offer has been given our members are still out."Is It Still "Solidarity Forever?"
But is their membership really on their side? Or have numbers been dwindling as teachers and public officers return to work - especially since the government announced they would start docking salaries for everyday missed after last Friday.
And on top of that, you've heard the ComPol and his Minister say that the public is growing frustrated with the unions and have chosen not to lend their support.
We asked the union leaders that today but they said their membership has never been stronger. Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U."When we are doing industrial actions as unions anything is possible and so as we normally say we plan, we execute, we dent share our plans ahead of time. So whatever it will take for us as unions to do what you have to do then we will do so. The police have a job to do and we have to respect them for that, but we too have a job to do. There has been an increase in the intimidation tactics out there, but despite all of that our teachers are standing firm, public officers are standing firm and we are saying that we are moving forward, we are not going backward, we are moving forward, so they have been trying their best to intimidate our workers from being with us, but it's not working."
Gerald Henry, President, PSU"From the pace inside we have actually seen an increase to our membership, so that in itself will let you know whether we are moving in a negative or position direction."Are Unions Being Honest with Membership?
But is that strength borne out of the unions being dishonest with their membership to turn them against the government? That seems to be what some members on the government side of the negotiation team believe.
So we asked the union presidents today if this is true:they said that they are an open book to their members.Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U."We know as leaders and our members are right here, some of them, that everything that is discuss in our meetings we take back to them. It goes back to the point where some of our members believe that we are putting things to them. We become accused of siding with the government because we go back and present everything to them. So if it is that we want to believe what the government is saying then we can go ahead, but we have our members who can tell you differently and so those kind of statements we dent waste our time with."
Gerald Henry, President, PSU"The last document that was sent out by the prime minister, it says the letter of government's undertakings, this got out before we got a chance to look at it, so a lot of these information that we are talking about actually gets out before we even get an opportunity to actually go through these documents with our members and that's what started to create distrust with us and our members, but it's a good thing that they did it so often and they change the narrative so often that our members started to realize that the problem was not here, problem was there."Channel 7