NASSAU — The Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s line staff union staged an emotionally charged protest at BEC’s main office that shut down operations and eventually led to a shoving match with police yesterday.
The protest, led by the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union and supported by the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, began around 9:30 a.m. and went on for hours with members physically barring all customers from entering the premises.
BEWU‚President Stephano Greene said operations at most BEC locations were also shut down.
Workers have been going head to head with BEC Chairman Leslie Miller for several months now over issues regarding a new shift system and overtime pay.
But Greene said the firing of BEC employee Melinda Cunningham and the suspension of BEWU‚chief shop steward Michael Edgecombe triggered the new round of tension.
The workers renewed calls for Miller’s removal.
More than 100 of them gathered at the gate of the Baillou Hill Road headquarters.
They chanted, “Leslie got to go; Leslie got to go” as police failed in their attempts to calm them down.
In addition to BEC customers, protestors also prevented labour relations consultants Robert Farquharson and Frank Carter from entering the premises despite their insistence that they were seeking to assist the workers.
Carter and Farquharson were engaged by the BEC board to help resolve the matter.
At one point, workers hurled two rocks at Farquharson’s car as he tried to force his way through the main gate. Both Farquharson and Carter were heading to a meeting that was scheduled for 11 a.m.
Workers also lifted the front end of Farquharson’s car while he was sitting in the driver’s seat after he refused to back down.
At one point, Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Seymour was pushed into Farquharson’s vehicle as he attempted to guide Farquharson through BEC’s gates.
Farquharson sat in his car for about 30 minutes before he was able to get out with police protection.
However, he was barred from entry again as he attempted to walk through the gates.
Workers alleged that he is not on their side.
During the height of the protest about 10 officers were called in as back-up. (Nassau Guardian)