Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, assured unionists and workers of the government’s support of unionism and impressed upon them to unite.
While Sen. Thompson – who was one of the speakers at the Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day March, Friday (June 7) – remarks were met with jeers, he maintained that workers in this country are valued.
Held in the Southern District this year, the parade attracted a large number of union representatives and supporters from the governing Free National Movement (FNM) and the Official Opposition, including Deputy Leader Chester Cooper and Senators Fred Mitchell and Dr. Michael Darville.
As Sen. Thompson began his presentation, persons were heard voicing their disappointment with the countries unemployment rate and questioning the development of the country.
However, Sen. Thompson continued, “I want to first of all say a happy Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day.
“I also want to bring greetings on behalf of our Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis, who also stands with labourers. I also want to bring greetings on behalf of our Deputy Prime Minister, K. Peter Turnquest, who also wishes that he could be here.
“We want to congratulate those who are the honorees, and we want to say thank you for your contributions.”
He continued, “As I say and I mean this, while we wear our different colours and while we may have a difference when it comes to politics, we are all Bahamians and there is more that unites us than divides us.
“This is a very special day and this is a very special day in the life of Grand Bahama. There is a message that I would like to say this morning and that message is that workers in this country are valued.
“Whatever happens and whatever is said, whatever is done … teachers make a wonderful contribution and are valued. Nurses make a wonderful contribution and they are valued. If it was not for those government workers, the government would not be able to function, so they are valued. Our Bahamas Immigration office, our Bahamas Customs Office … if it were not for them, our borders would not be protected and our taxes would not be collected. They are valued.”
Passionately he reiterated, “We can have all kind of political differences, you can say we (the government) are doing a bad job, you could say we are doing a good job, but there is one indisputable fact, workers in this country are important and they are valued.
“When it comes to the workers, this is a day for the workers and this is a day that the workers should be recognized and should be valued.
“We should lift them up, we should say thank you to them, we should take the time out to tell them we appreciate them. We should tell them that they work hard and tell them that if it wasn’t for them, where would we be as a country. So, that is one thing that I believe we all would agree, and that is a message that we should put forward,” he stressed.
Sen. Thompson said that in this country, more will get done if Bahamians are unified.
During a courtesy call at the Office of the Prime Minister on Thursday, June 6, Sen. Thompson disclosed that he met with the leaders of each union, hearing their issues.
He assured members and leaders that the government is working with them. “I had a very good meeting, and I want to thank all of the union heads, who participated in that very important meeting yesterday. It actually was a meeting that I thought was going to be an ordinary courtesy call and follow up, but I am happy that when we asked them to provide us with what they wanted to talk about or what are the concerns that they want us to talk about, they took that request seriously.
“They provided me with a very detailed and comprehensive list of all of the issues that were facing those persons in Grand Bahama and bear in mind that some issues faced in Grand Bahama are different from those issues that are faced in New Providence.
“One thing that I also recognized is the same fight that we (government) are fighting for Grand Bahama is some of the same fights that the unions are fighting for in Grand Bahama and I am glad that Chester Cooper said what he said, Nassau is not The Bahamas and The Bahamas is not Nassau. I am unified with him on that point.”
Sen. Thompson thanked union representatives for coming to that meeting and providing a comprehensive list of concerns, adding that he took those concerns seriously.
“I raised them at our Cabinet meeting; I raised them with the relevant ministers and those that were under my portfolio, we took them seriously. Not only did we take them seriously, but we took the time to point-by-point respond to each of their concerns.”
Admitting that all of the concerns were not resolved, Sen. Thompson said that a number of the issues have gone for years through different governments. So, some of them I recognize we were not going to resolve in one day.
“I want to thank the unions for presenting their points and their concerns, because this is what unions are supposed to do.”
Sen. Thompson noted that this was his first time speaking at a Labour. Day Parade, “… I said that we have an open door policy when it comes to unions in Grand Bahama and I am continuing to stand by that. I know that there are many concerns, but one thing I assure you is that we would’ve always listened to unions and we would always sit, negotiate, talk and act in a fair manner with the unions.
“We will not answer all of your concerns; I will be honest with you, but there is one thing that we must do, we must work together as best we can to address every single one of your concerns and that is what we are committed to do.
“I want to reassure you that government starts with you. I want to reassure you that the government will treat you with fairness. I want to reassure you that we will listen to your concerns and I want to assure you that where possible, we will address every one of your concerns,” said Sen. Thompson.
“This has been a wonderful morning; this has been a wonderful march, this is a wonderful day and as I said, the wonderful thing about this country is we can have differences, we can wear different colours but at the end of the day we are all Bahamians and we are fighting the same cause” he concluded.