June 10, 2021
This past week, The Bahamas celebrated Labour Day. In one of the stranger twists of the annual celebrations, for the second year, there has been no parade - and even an attempted motorcade was blocked by the relevant authorities. It is an understatement to say that the labor movement in The Bahamas has gone through severe pain in the last year. The pandemic has been particularly brutal to workers as we have seen the unemployment rate soar, workers have had their cars and homes repossessed and some who have never had to depend on social service have had to lean on social assistance for survival.
Workers in many ways went through a helpless experience. There was no bargaining power because the issue of the day was survival for businesses who could not pay workers because their income was severely reduced and the tourists who drive our economy were barred or limited from entering The Bahamas. In my lifetime, I have never seen such a quandary and hopefully will never see again. Thee year 2020 was brutal for workers and brutal for business and employers also. Everyone suffered under the weight of the pandemic.
We are now seeing signs of a turnaround – but what does this mean for workers and what does the future look like? I have served as a worker, a manager, human resources manager for a local food store chain, an employer, businessperson, business and corporate consultant and trainer and motivational speaker for many businesses. I believe this qualifies me to speak on labor issues and what the future looks like for the Bahamian worker.
I can say with assurance that we have many good, competent, loyal and diligent workers. I can also say with some assurance that we have many unproductive, unfruitful, lazy, inconsiderate and incompetent workers. The bad workers make life hard for the good workers. As both employer and manager, I have been astounded at the attitude and performance of some workers. Unfortunately, I have witnessed a high level of stealing; employees who fail to show up for work and who do not call; workers who do not develop their skills and enhance their knowledge of their profession; workers who simply do not show up for work for periods of time and who give the good workers a hard time because of their negative actions.
We also have good and bad employers. Some employers take advantage of workers and are totally unreasonable in their expectations and demands as they exploit workers with low pay and unreasonable burdens. There are problems on both sides of this equation. What I can say with assurance is that what is needed to reduce the labor pains is an upgrade on both sides of the ledger. The Bahamian work ethic is in desperate need of an upgrade, and this is where unions have the capacity to influence the outcome. Union leaders need to have a frank and open discussion with workers, informing them of the current state of affairs and outlining what it will take to improve their prospects for a better tomorrow and to upgrade the name and value of workers in The Bahamas.
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