Hon. D Shane Gibson
Member of Parliament
February 23, 2011
Mr. Party Leader and Mrs. Christie, Mr. Deputy Leader and Mrs. Davis, Party Chairman and Mrs. Roberts, other Party Officers, Stalwart Counsellors, Members of Parliament, Senators, distinguish Candidates, brother and sisters good evening.
A highly respected NBA basketball player and coach once said, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do”. Tonight I stand on this platform with a renewed vigor and exciting enthusiasm, to tell you, the people of The Bahamas that no Hubert Ingraham can stop the power of the people. The Commonwealth of the Bahamas has, over the many decades been blessed with a hard working and dedicated working class., and from what we’ve seen from 2007, this Government is doing all they could to wipe out the majority of all which was achieved over the years by workers.
From as far back as the 1930’s the workers of this country have contributed significantly to the growth and development of this nation. Please allow me to reflect on just three historical events in our past where the working people were told no and they took the words of John Wooden and did what they had to do.
In 1942 an oppressive Government told the workers of the Bahamas that they were not entitle to get an agreed increase in wages. The men of this nation united together and said enough is enough and we had the Burma Road Riot. In 1958 again an oppressive government told the workers of this country that they were not entitled to be treated fairly in their own country. The workers responded with on unified voice and said enough was enough and we had the 1958 General Strike. In 1967 after the workers of this country spoke in a general election and an oppressive government made attempts to undermine the will of the people, the workers said enough is enough and we had majority rule.
Today in our country an oppressive, arrogant and worthless government is telling the workers of this country that they are unfit to operate BTC and Bahamians are unworthy of owning 100% of BTC. Tonight, I say, enough is enough. As a member, in good standing of the Bahamas communications & Public Officers Union and a Trade Unionist by heart, I join with the thousands of workers and say to this heartless and dumbfounded government, that we had enough and we will not take it anymore.
Any right thinking, honest person can take a look at this BTC deal and see that “something stinks”. My sister and brothers something is wrong with this and I believe someone is not telling the Bahamian People the whole story. The fundamental question Bahamians are asking is, If The Prime Minister was negotiating on behalf of C and W and Cable and wireless was negotiating on behalf of their company, then who was negotiating on behalf of Bahamians. When I heard The Prime Minister announcing the greatest give away in the history of The Bahamas, I saw members of his Cabinet hold their head down in shame and one of them came over to me afterwards and said quietly, This is not the Ingraham we elected in 1992 and 1997, he suggested that there must be some mental imbalance going on with the Prime Minister as he could not be in his right mind to sign a contract like this on behalf of The Bahamian people.
I was advised that the clauses penalizing The Government if competition were to be introduced for mobile service earlier than stated in the agreement, was actually advanced by The Government and not Cable and Wireless. Can you imagine, the Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, agreeing to penalizing itself up to one hundred million dollars for breaching a part of a contract worth two hundred and ten million dollars.
Then we saw that a former C and W employee is working in IT department at BTC, a former C and W employee is in charge of URCA and to add insult to injury, and now we see where a current C and W employee is currently a consultant to URCA. If this isn’t corruption of the highest order, then what is corruption. The million dollar question is, was this entire deal orchestrated from the beginning and who orchestrated it. It looks like not only does the local security exchange have to investigate this but this must also be reported to the international regulators in jurisdictions where Cable and Wireless operates as well. We see now why they want to rush this process with Cable and Wireless, every week we are discovering the secrets to this deal.
Let me share some information with you. Did you know that:
BTC currently outstrips most of C & W operations in the Caribbean in terms of network development as well as the availability of cutting-edge products and services. In the area of customer services, C & W’s inefficiencies and ineptitude is widely known throughout its jurisdictions in the Caribbean.
Did you know that:
BTC’s gross revenues amounts to more than 50% of C & W revenues in all of its operations in the Caribbean combined. C & W has a poor reputation for employee and labor relations throughout all of its jurisdictions in the Caribbean and C & W has a stated agenda of centralizing management and leadership for all of its operations in the region. There is more, did you know that C & W profitability in the Caribbean is primarily due to its signature downsizing activities versus the deployment of cutting-edge network infrastructure and the delivery of superior customer services. The Caribbean Telecom News reported in its edition of May 22, 2009 in an article titled “Cable & Wireless plans to cut more jobs” that Mr. John Pluthero, Executive Chairman of C & W Worldwide stated that job cuts will be an “on-going feature” as the Company evolves its operations.
Did you know that:
In the past three years, the GOTB and its agencies has benefited from BTC to the tune of over $200 million, which includes the following:
i. Over $100 million dollars cash taken out as dividends.
ii. Over $30 million in customs duties.
iii. Approximately $17 million in franchise fees,
iv. Approximately $8 million in NIB contributions,
v. Approximately $30 million in business license and other fees, and
vi. Over $30 million in customs duties (BTC receives no exemptions!).
The above mentioned statistics speaks to the value of BTC to the GOTB and its role in positively impacting the public purse. It stands to reason, therefore, that an offer of approximately $200 million to purchase a 51% stake in BTC is ill-advised, particularly with respect to the challenging economic times that the Bahamian economy is facing.
PLP’s brothers and sister, we have to take another look at this deal and put Bahamians first. Do you know what we need. We need the nest government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas headed by the Rt. Hon Perry Christie to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to look into the following:
§ Why was BTC undervalued to facilitate the sale to C&W. the Underground fiber cable and the 91 properties that BTC owns in the Bahamas is valued in excess of $600 million and we are selling 51% for just $210million.;
§ Is there a conflict of interest between members of the Privatization Committee and members of BTC’s Board of Directors
§ Who is getting the finder’s fee
§ How does a former C&W Executive, in seven months, move from C&W to URCA as a Director of Policy to the CEO in less than three years and what role did a C&W Executives, hired by URCA play in ensure that former C&W employees operate URCA.
Sister and brothers, a PLP government will not only fixed the BTC problem but we treat the trade union movement as a partner. We will treat them with respect, dignity and we will be committed to the Principles of the International Labour Organization. A PLP government headed by Perry Christie will:
1. Adopt a Parliamentarian Resolution for the renaming of Labour Day to the Sir Randolph Fawkes Labour Day;
2. Compel employers to come to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith.
3. Put a time limit on the Minister to respond to an application for recognition.
4. Create a smoother transition process from an expired industrial agreement to a new industrial agreement.
5. Remove the obligation for the Bahamas Industrial Tribunal to register industrial agreements and move it to the Office of Registrar of Trade Unions.
6. Remove the provision in the Act whereby an Employer can request that a trade union recognition can be revoked.
7. Review, table and implement the regulations already approved by Tri-Four and the Special Committee in the Occupational Health and Safety at Work Act
8. Grant a parcel crown land in New Providence to the NCTUB and CBTUC for the construction of the Labour College.
9. Appoint Labour Representatives as part of national delegations attending regional and international trade agreements discussions.
10. Reintroduce and strengthen the Bahamianization Policy whereby non-Bahamian workers on work permits should only be hired when there are no qualified and willing Bahamian available to fill the position and in the event a non-Bahamian is hired, it should be for a specified time period and make it mandatory that a Bahamian be selected to understudy the person with the view to fill the position on the expiration of the work-permit.
11. Introduce legislation to protect workers redundancy payments.
12. Introduce legislation to further protect workers benefits after being certified of a permanent injury caused through industrial accident.
I wish to recommend that as a PLP administration made it possible for the retail Industry in our country to be reserved exclusively for Bahamians, maybe we need to revisit that concept and make the construction industry exclusive for Bahamians. No longer should we tolerate non Bahamian Contractor, coming in this country to set up shop. We have enough train, qualified and able contractors to build building and construct roads. If there is a need for a specialized skill, then the Bahamian Contractor can bring them in for a defined specified period.
The Father of the labour the late sir Randolph Fawkes said “Labour must Unite or Perish”. I stand here to salute the leaders of the trade union movement in our country and say thank you for taking a stand. Taking a stand against an oppressive and non-caring government who has demonstrated over and repeatedly that they have no confidence in the Bahamian worker. Enough is enough Mr. Ingraham. Only time separates The PLP from where you are and the FNM from where we are.
As I take my leave, I have a message from workers in general but those BTC workers and their families in particular. To all of the FNM’s Members of Parliament and those who support this BTC If you vote for LIME don’t waste our Time.
I say to Cable and Wireless, Buyer beware, as we will be taking BTC back through any and every lawful means immediately upon assuming office, and we will be using the same formula you used in determining how much you will be paid for the shares you are temporary holding for us. Maybe it is time for an Eygpt moment to force this Government into an early election since it is clear that they are operating without a current mandate from Bahamians at large.
Good night and God Bless. PLP all the way