By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
UNIONISED Sandals Royal Bahamian employees will head to the polls on Thursday to decide whether or not they will strike.
This is the second time members of the Bahamas Hotel, Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU) will hold a strike vote in less than a year.
Last May, almost 300 workers voted in favour of striking, however the strike certificate was not upheld in court after the resort said there was no oversight of the polling exercise by Ministry of Labour personnel, that the strike wasn’t conducted fairly, and that workers appeared to have been “coerced”.
Union chief Obie Ferguson, who is the lead negotiator for the BHMAWU said yesterday, this time around the union will not take any chances and they have written the Minister of Labour to ensure that an officer will be present on January 30th to oversee the process.
“We will strike on the 30th of January 2014. We have had enough. The workers have done everything that was reasonable for them to do. The officers have been waiting for several years to address their wrongful and unfair dismissal. The officers to this day still cannot access the property to tend to their membership. We are still of the view that the laws of this country must be followed, you can’t ask the young people to follow the law and you as a corporation executive are not required to,” he said.
“It’s not a threat it‘s a promise. We wrote the minster, we told him to have available on the 30th at 9am a designated officer pursuant to the law so that the 300 workers at Sandals can go to Casuarina Hotel beginning at 9am and they will cast their vote for a strike. We are doing it because we can no longer sit idly by and allow Tom, Dick and Harry to disregard the laws of this country. The workers of Sandals we will be there on the 30th at 9am. The Trade Union Congress will be there as well. We want to say to Sandals we welcome their business, it’s good for the country and always good for them, but we will not allow them to violate the laws of this country any longer. The last poll the Minister did not appoint the designated officer, which ought to be done by law, so Sandals went to court, they said to the judge there was not an effective appointment and the judge accepted the position and vacated the certificate. So we are back to do it again.”
Mr Ferguson said the union will strike immediately after the vote is certified by the Ministry of Labour and he is positive the workers will do “the right thing.
“They will be striking while the vote is going on, that is how angry we are,” he said. ”We will do the strike vote on Thursday, we will then move to strike. As soon as the Ministry certifies the numbers we will strike. Don’t mind them talking about a cool off period that’s just foolishness, there is no such thing. They do that to try and persuade the union to do something else, but we don’t need no cooling off period, they put in the press sometimes that we have 30 days to cool off. Cool off for what? We don’t want to get cool off, we want to get warm up.”
Mr Ferguson said there will be a “mass gathering” Wednesday night, ahead of the strike vote at the House of Labour, to give union member “clear instructions” on what is to happen on Thursday morning.
Sandals representatives were not available for comment up to press time.