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Sandals Rejects Union Busting Claim

MANAGEMENT at Sandals Royal Bahamian yesterday condemned allegations of union busting and staff intimidation.

Calling remarks by Bahamas Hotel Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU) officials slanderous, the resort demanded a public apology.

"The executives of this union made placard accusations against the minister for which they were compelled to withdraw and apologise," an official statement read. "They will be compelled to do the same as respects our management and good name."

Last week, the BHMAWU alleged employees were being "threatened" that if they did not sign a petition removing the union as their bargaining agent, they could lose their jobs.

Union officials held a demonstration outside the West Bay Street resort on Monday in protest of the alleged petition.

Denying the charges of intimidation, Sandal's general manager Patrick Drake said at that time the resort "recognised the right of workers to sign a petition to the Minister of Labour requesting revocation of union representation."

In February 2010, a Privy Council ruling paved the way for the union to be recognised as the bargaining agent for the 500 non-managerial employees at Sandals Royal Bahamian, overturning the Court of Appeal's verdict that the BHMAWU was "void" because it was not properly registered.

Management has maintained that 70 per cent of current employees had not been hired when the vote for BHMAWU representation was taken in 2008, and any attempt to "settle the question of union representation" must allow present workers "an opportunity to indicate whether they desire to be part of this union."

Management claims the union's recent allegations have sullied the resort's reputation as an important tourism facility by creating the impression it was in direct contravention of the constitutional rights of its workers.

"The handful of placard-bearing persons featured in the media demonstrating at the hotel are persons who ceased working with the hotel in 2008/2009 when the world recession forced a contraction of the operations of hotels across the region and, indeed, the world," the statement read.

"Yet, these former employees were deceptively utilised to create the impression that the current workforce was at odds with the management of the hotel over attempts at union-busting."

Management noted recent and ongoing investments, such as new butler suits and expanded training opportunities, as evidence of its commitment as a corporate citizen in the tourism sector.

"For nearly two decades, Sandals has been proudly playing our part in building the tourism sector of the Bahamas. We have taken an old resort, with an enormous history, and developed it to the pinnacle of modern tourism comparable to any top-of the-line resort anywhere in the world.

"We cannot stand idly by and allow this challenge to our honour to go undefended."

Union president Lynden Taylor and Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes did not return calls yesterday.

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