By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Morton Salt workers were yesterday urged to “stick it through”, amid calls by some union members for its president to alleviate their financial hardship by signing off on a new industrial agreement.
Members of the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) wrote to its president, Jennifer Brown, on February 3 to express concern over the prolonged negotiations with Morton Bahamas.
They told Ms Brown that after being placed on a reduced work week, they could not afford to carry out the “waiting game any longer”
BIMAWU member, Dominique Seymour, told Tribune Business that 53 per cent of union members of the union wanted to have the industrial agreement signed immediately.
“After Hurricane Joaquin we were place on a three-day work week,” she said. “It’s really having a tool on us. We have been back and forth. We had spoken with the general manager and the director of Morton, and the manager here, and we questioned them because the president, Ms Brown, kept telling us that she could not sign the agreement because it is incomplete.
“If Morton officials are saying they have presented their last and final offer to us, what’s the reason? She cannot give us a legitimate reason as to why she would not sign the contract.
“Right now, she is not showing any concern; she is ignoring us completely,” Ms Seymour said. “She is trying to put the Tribunal ruling with the contract. The Tribunal ruling is something that is a matter totally different from her signing the contract, and it’s really taking a toll on us.
“With our economic situation here in Inagua, things are really slow. Morton has been our livelihood for years, and to lose that would be to lose everything.”
While the BIMAWU, which represents more than 100 workers, has been in dispute with Morton Salt over the definition of overtime, Ms Seymour contended that the union’s position was wrong.
The BIMAWU, an affiliate of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), is arguing that based on the Employment Act, working on a day-off and/or public holidays entitles an employee to double time.
Morton Salt, though, has taken the position that it will only pay ‘time-and-a-half’.
The company is Inagua’s largest employer, and its ultimate parent is K+S, a German company.
“They do pay day off,” said Ms Seymour. “They do gives us double time when we come in to work on days off and public holidays. To accuse Morton of failing to comply with labour laws is false.”
Speaking with Tribune Business on the matter yesterday, Ms Brown said: “Since we were on a three-day work week it was sort of hard for a lot of the workers. They wanted to sign the agreement to get their backpay, the increase for the last three years ,but they can’t get that until the contract is completed.
“We have not completed negotiations. I know it’s hard times. Some may feel it a little more than others, but we just have to stick it through. We had a meeting on that and asked members if they wanted to wait. As far as we are concerned they said they wanted to wait.”
She added: “When the three-day work week came in a lot of them were having financial problems, being unable to meet bank payments and so forth. Even if they get that couple of dollars, about $1,500, after they get that they would still be in problems.
“What the union did was we went to the bank and got some of their payments waived at least for a month.”
Ms Brown said the union has not had any recent discussions with Morton Salt on the new agreement.