By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Morton Salt Bahamas was yesterday accused of failing to negotiate a new industrial agreement in good faith, with the offered pay increase branded insufficient to cover inflation.
Obie Ferguson, pictured, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) president, said the breakdown between the company and the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU), which represents line-staff at the company's Inagua operation, had resulted from "disrespect" of industrial agreements.
He pointed to the recent Court of Appeal ruling in BIMAWU's case against Morton Salt, in which acting Appeal Justice, Sir Michael Barnett, found that an industrial agreement is an employment contract. As a result, Sir Michael found that the Industrial Tribunal was "obliged" to apply common law principles relating to contracts when analysing industrial agreements, which the unions argue paves the way for employers to "unilaterally" change the terms and conditions of worker contracts without fear of sanction.
Morton Salt, a subsidiary of K+S, a German company, is Inagua's largest employer. Mr Ferguson said: "This is the kind of situation you have when employers are allowed to disrespect the industrial agreement. It is vexing but we will attempt to negotiate with them in good faith. All is not well in the labour movement."
The TUC president said he intends to appeal the Court of Appeal decision to the Privy Council. "This is a matter that necessitates government intervention in terms of underwriting the costs associated with having the matter properly heard and adjudicated with the Privy Council," he said.
"We have moved the court to seek the appropriate leave to have this matter addressed. This matter will not only affect Morton Salt but a number of existing unions where you have industrial agreements."
As for the industrial agreement talks, Jennifer Brown, BIMAWU president, said: "Up until April 10 we have been negotiating, and then we were told the negotiator found a better job so there have been no negotiations since then.
"During our negotiations the company's offer was a 1.4 percent increase in 2018, 1.5 percent in 2019, and 1.6 percent in 2020. That doesn't even cover inflation, which is 3-plus percent. We feel the company could do better. Since the ruling the company's attitude has changed. Employees are being discriminated against. There is just a lot of stuff going on right now. We only want what is fair and just for our members. They are not satisfied with the situation at Morton right now."
Tribune Business was unable to get a response from Morton Salt up to press time yesterday.