By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 300 unionised Sandals workers are expected to head to the polls today to decide whether or not they will strike.
Beginning at 9am, members of the Bahamas Hotel Maintenance and Allied Workers Union will gather at Casuarinas Hotel to hold a strike vote – the second in less than a year.
Despite claims by union chief Obie Ferguson that staff members have many concerns that are not being addressed, management at the hotel say they had no idea there were “significant issues that would warrant such action by the union”.
In a press release yesterday, Sandals representatives said they were “surprised” to learn through the media, that the BHMAWU had decided on a strike vote exercise that would “impede the day-to-day operations”.
“Sandals Royal Bahamian is and has always been a responsible employer that abides by the laws of the Bahamas and we find this stance by the union extremely baffling given that not only are both parties continuing to meet on an ongoing basis on issues related to our team members but also that a matter is still before the Court of Appeal.
“We continue to treat with the BHMAWU on various issues in direct accordance with the laws of the Bahamas and any statements to the contrary are entirely unfounded,” the statement said.
“It is also unfortunate that the BHMAWU would attempt to disrupt operations when the resort’s occupancy is beginning to rise, and sadly any such action will invariably impact the income of our team members.
“We have invested enormous sums of money to raise the resort to even greater heights including the total refurbishment of over 200 suites in the Windsor Building and the creation of the Walkout River Suites which are a month away from completion. This kind of investment has drastically changed the face of the resort and is the talk of the marketplace which we believe will go on to benefit the team members as well as the destination of the Bahamas as a whole.”
On Monday, Mr Ferguson told The Tribune this strike vote comes after many failed negotiation sessions with the hotel. He said union members have had enough and are prepared to take a stand.
“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.
“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 cooled off, we want to get warmed up.”