Dear Sirs/ Mesdames:
I write this is response to Rick Lowe who is part of the right wing Nassau Institute and an FNM activist who published a letter accusing me of asking the government to spend tax dollars to save City Markets. I examined the report of my remarks in The Tribune of 15th September 2011. Nowhere did I make any such suggestion.
Mr. Lowe’s characterizing my calling for the government to intervene and his morphing that into using tax dollars to save City Markets is a feat of magic that even Houdini cannot beat.
I make two points about this City Markets matter which I think is of grave concern for the country because its failure will be put 800 people out of work. I happen to agree generally with the libertarian argument that if the market cannot bear a business that it should then go out of business.
There are some human costs however. The main concern is jobs and saving jobs. My point to The Tribune was a simple one.
The mandate of the Minister of Labour is amongst other things to secure a high level of employment in The Bahamas. My point was that were the PLP in office, our Minister of Labour would have been working with the company in seeking to find ways to save it rather than let it fail so as to keep people gainfully employed. Further, if the company were downsizing the PLP’s Minister of Labour would have ensured that the workers got all the severance pay they deserved and that they were treated properly in law and in equity.
It seems to me that Dion Foulkes who is the FNM’s Minister of Labour got the point after my intervention and he told The Nassau Guardian that he was in touch with the owner.
Some people are trying to link this with the PLP because the assumption is that Mark Finlayson who is the major shareholder is PLP and so the PLP wants to save Mark Finlayson. Well this is not about Mark Finlayson and the PLP: this is about the general principle of saving jobs and keeping businesses going rather than seeing them fail. This would apply to any large business facing these issues. Abaco Markets is another example where the government should have been more proactive.
I read this morning that Union leaders have met with the company and that they are satisfied with the state of play for the workers. My constituents have concerns about their pensions. That too is a legal issue which is governed by a set of rules which are enforceable. I have been in touch with the company. A public announcement has now been made about the fund.
The issue then for me is not the PLP. The issue is the workers being properly served by the government elected to run this country. Do the workers have attorneys? I am advised that they do. Do they have a case in constructive dismissal? Have they been treated properly? These are issues for the Minister of Labour? Have their union leaders acted to protect their interests?
These are issues for the government. I call on the government to assist. I believe that workers rights ought to be protected. I will continue to keep the matter under review.
That is what I call intervention.
Fred Mitchell MP