By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) president has dismissed a Judicial Review launched against a trade union by Sandals Royal Bahamian, arguing that it has no impact on its position as the recognised bargaining agent for the resort’s line staff.
Obie Ferguson stressed that the Bahamas Hotel, Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU) remaind the sole recognised bargaining agent, having been seeking to negotiate an industrial agreement with Sandals Royal Bahamian since 2009.
However, the resort and its attorneys, Lennox Paton, have been challenging the “very basis” for the union’s existence on technical grounds. The resort previously filed a Judicial Review seeking a court order that would force the Registrar of Trade Union’s to cancel the union’s registration.
“Once you have a determination certificate, you’re the bargaining agent,” Mr Ferguson responded. “Until the court says otherwise, you’re the bargaining agent.
“Just because you filed something in the court to challenge me on something, it doesn’t mean that I’m no longer that. Filing an action doesn’t stay the action pending your matter. You have to go to court and get a definitive Order from the court staying that action.
“Those things never happened, and when you look at the time they did file around 2008-2009, it has no significance. That ‘s the law as I understand it, with an injunction, yes, but not because you file.”
Sandals Royal Bahamian’s case is that the BHMAWU has breached the Industrial Relations Act on two counts - failing to hold nominations for its executive positions, and the non-publication of its annual returns.
And it is alleging that the Registrar of Trade Unions (the director of labour), despite discovering these irregularities and giving the BHMAWU two months to correct the problems, had failed to take action over the union’s continued non-compliance.
The other thrust of Sandals Royal Bahamian’s action was that the union’s executives were not elected in accordance with the BHMAWU’s constitution, and it has therefore been seeking a Supreme Court declaration that they have no authority to act on the staff’s behalf.
The Judicial Review action might explain why Sandals Royal Bahamian is still refusing to negotiate an industrial agreement with the trade union,with tensions boiling over into road blockages and the filing of criminal complaints against the resort’s executives. T
he resort recently made some 600 workers redundant, claiming that it was the only available option to allow it to carry out a $4 million renovation in time for the winter season.
The TUC and the BHMAWU have blasted the move as union busting, pointing to a job fair last week during which new employees - not those among the terminated 600 - were invited to apply for jobs with Sandals Royal Bahamian.