By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE union representing Morton Salt line workers yesterday warned “something is going to happen soon” if the government fails to intervene in the ongoing dispute with the salt harvester.
Jennifer Brown, head of the Bahamas Industrial, Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU), which represents around 100 workers, told Tribune Business that the working climate was “very tense and it’s getting worse”.
She slammed what she labelled as “erroneous” social media reports that sought to lay the blame for decreased productivity at Morton’s Inagua operation at the feet of the union and its members, adding: “I think that’s just persons connected to the company trying to make the union look bad. The company is making some bad decisions and we’re being blamed for it.”
Morton (Bahamas) would not confirm or deny claims that the company has lost contracts with salt buyers due to a work slowdown. “As a standard practice, we do not comment on rumours and speculation or discuss details regarding production output and customer relationships due to competitive and proprietary reasons,” said company spokesman, Paul Jackiewicz in response to Tribune Business inquiries.
He continued: “At Morton Bahamas we’re committed to building productive working relationships with our employees. For the past year we’ve met in good faith with union representatives in an effort to reach a new labour agreement. We’ve also worked together with a conciliator to help drive toward a solution and we hope to come to an agreement soon.”
Ms Brown told Tribune Business that relations between the company and line-staff have grown increasingly tense, with worker morale at an all-time low. She again charged that the company was deliberately excluding union members from working overtime and instead using part-time employees.
“Morale is very low. It looks like they would rather lose money than make money. When the boats aren’t loaded on time they want to blame us,” Ms Brown said. “If government don’t intervene something is going to happen very soon. It’s very tense and it’s getting worse. We have some serious issues down here. The company is not working with the union. We have been trying to handle this in a respectful manner but nothing is working.”
Dion Foulkes, minister of labour, has repeatedly expressed concern over the impasse in negotiations between Morton and the union, urging both sides to move closer to a resolution.
The threat of industrial unrest has loomed over Morton Salt’s Inagua operations since late last year, with the union saying it was “insulted” by the company’s original industrial agreement offer.