By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The hotel union yesterday rejected criticism of its actions over Baha Mar’s recent 190 lay-offs, saying it would have done “everything in its power” to aid them had it been a party to the Heads of Agreement with the Government.
Bahamas Hotel Catering & Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) secretary-general, Darren Woods, denied suggestions from Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, Obie Ferguson, that the union had suffered from a “false sense of security” over the redundancies.
He added that the union was still waiting to hear from the Government about its meetings with Baha Mar over the matter.
“We are still waiting to hear from the Government. There still has to be a meeting with us, Baha Mar and the Government once they would have finished their talks,” Mr Woods said.
“I can’t really say where they are at. We need to find out if these persons are let go, what they were paid or what was offered to them. We just hear in the media that Baha Mar is saying that they were compensated over and above.
“They sent us a list of names. It didn’t say when they were hired or what they were entitled to. That is the only way we will be satisfied that they were adequately compensated.”
Mr Ferguson this week said Baha Mar’s recent 190 lay-offs showed how Bahamian workers have been “seriously compromised”.
Responding to Mr Ferguson’s suggestions, Mr Woods said: “No one is ever expecting anyone to be made redundant, in particular if we have an agreement that says something.
“Any trade unionist knows that once something happens, what needs to happen afterwards, and if it was in our power we would have done what we could have done.
“We consulted our attorney, who said that because there is a Heads of Agreement and we are not party to it, there was nothing we could do. Only the persons party to the Agreement could move it. The Government is the one who has to make the move.
“They are in discussions with them and we are just waiting to see what those discussion bring forth. The last time this would have happened there was an Agreement signed saying what what was going to happen if anyone was going to be laid-off. It tells us that this developer has no regard for any agreement that was signed.”
Addressing a graduation exercise at Trinidad and Tobago’s Cipriani Labour College, Mr Ferguson questioned whether the hotel union had suffered from “a false sense of security” over the redundancies. He also asked whether it had been “ill-advised” over what it could do in relation to Baha Mar’s move.
The hotel union has argued that Baha Mar is in breach of two conditions contained in its Heads of Agreement; that it will maintain existing workforce numbers, and that any persons laid-off will be redeployed elsewhere in its business.
It has acknowledged, however, that it has virtually no legal options, or recourse, as it was not party to the Heads of Agreement, hence its appeal to the Government to intervene.
For Baha Mar’s part, the lay-offs are part of efforts to restructure its workforce prior to the $3.5 billion project’s opening.
The former Crystal Palace workers have also been the victims of Baha Mar’s delayed opening. The project had originally been scheduled to open in December 2014, and the developer had anticipated the several hundred persons graduating from its training programmes this month would go straight into working at the new hotels.