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‘Only Acceptable Resolution Is Giving Staff Back Their Jobs’

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Obie Ferguson

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

TRADE Union Congress President Obie Ferguson said the only resolution he is willing to accept in the ongoing Sandals labour dispute is the reinstatement of all the former employees made redundant earlier this month.

In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr Ferguson said that TUC officials have participated in a series of meetings with senior government officials, all geared towards the “rightful rehiring of every Sandals employee wrongfully dismissed.”

The attorney, who has operated as the lead negotiator for the displaced workers, said the TUC has remained on message from the onset of this matter.

“A union does exist to negotiate and work on behalf of these workers and Sandals should work in good faith toward this union body,” he said.

Referring to the Bahamas Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU), the union that has been fighting to be recognised by Sandals as the bargaining agent for employees, Mr Ferguson put forward a strong rebuke of the actions of the resort in this dispute.

“We have laws in this land. We have a government whose sole job it is to manage and articulate those laws. In this case the operators of this resort have found a way to trample over our laws and by-pass rules and regulations of our government. We cannot allow this matter to play out any other way, this has to end with the reinstatement of all 600 employees because they were all wrongfully terminated,” he said.

Mr Ferguson alleged that the move to terminate workers on August 15 was an illegal act, as the term redundancy only addressed positions that no longer existed.

He claimed that Sandals’ move to host a job fair just days after terminating virtually all its employees stands as proof that the jobs still exist.

“You can’t fire 600 people on the grounds of redundant positions and then in the same stretch of the arm, move to fill those same redundant positions. That defeats the claim. If that is the case, then we ought to know the true reason these persons were removed from their posts,” he added.

Mr Ferguson said the resort’s history of award-winning service proves further that former employees gave their all to the brand.

“Over the last decade, these same employees have pushed Sandals to numerous awards. So truthfully, what was the issue? How does the resort look to justify removing all of these employees?

“There is a meeting with the attorney general on Wednesday and another with the prime minister on Friday, and there will be no relenting until all the 600 employees are allowed to return to their posts.”

In 2011, the BHMAWU secured a ruling by the Privy Council in London that it be recognised as the bargaining agent for Sandals Royal Bahamian employees.

Despite this, however, Sandals has refused to negotiate with BHMAWU, union officials have said.

In its announcement that it would be carrying out an estimated $4m in necessary repairs, Sandals said it would make more than 600 employees redundant. Resort officials have said they had no choice other than to close the resort while the repairs are being carried out.

Labour Minister Shane Gibson has said he believed Sandals’ actions were an attack on the BMAWU.

Last week, the resort moved to fill the vacancies left as a result of the mass redundancy exercise with a four-day job fair.

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