By Natario McKenzie and Khrisna Russell
Tribune Staff Reporters
The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) yesterday pledged to “lay all of our cards on the table” over negotiations with the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association (BHEA).
“We do intend to respond and we intend to respond factually,” said BHCAWU President Darren Woods. “I have to respond based on what was said. We are going to lay all the cards on the table. I will hide nothing and will be able to question me.
“We have been called a lot of things. I understand they went as far as calling us dishonest, but we will lay the facts on the table... and everyone will be able to see the truth not by Darren, not by the other side, but by the facts.”
Last week, the BHEA slammed the hotel union for “deliberately riling up” its members into voting for a strike by misleading them over the 15 percent gratuity’s fate. Russell Miller, the Bahamas Hotel & Restaurant Employers Association’s (BHEA) president, read out a statement to the media in which the group - which represents the interests of major New Providence hotels - accused the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) of engineering a strike vote “around issues that simply do not exist”. Affirming that hotel employers had never proposed eliminating the automatic 15 percent gratuity, Mr Miller said the union’s leadership had simply made “an uninformed assumption” over the BHEA’s offer and “stirred up” their members’ worst fears to gain overwhelming support for a strike.
He also described the union’s claims that employers were unwilling to negotiate as “at worst, patently dishonest” and “not in the least bit productive”.
He also accused the union of misrepresenting both the content, and process to-date, in the two sides’ dealings as they inch towards the first hotel industry industrial agreement for six years.
Mr Miller’s statement made plain the employers’ anger and distaste for the union’s conduct, describing its behaviour as “unprofessional and, quite frankly, grossly irresponsible”.
The resorts which are members of the BHEA bargaining unit are Melia, Atlantis, Ocean Club, Harborside, the British Colonial Hilton, Lyford Cay Club and Towne Hotel. Significantly, Sandals Royal Bahamian, SuperClubs Breezes and Baha Mar are not included.
While the BHEA said last week its statement would be its only utterance on its negotiations with the BHCAWU, Mr Woods said the union would not let its claims go unchallenged.
“One thing with the truth is it needs no defence. You will hear from us this week. I am going to put all the information together so that we can factually show you what went down going all the way back to 2012 when we first sent the letter requesting dates for negotiations and what they did,” said Mr Woods.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar during his 2019/2020 budget presentation spoke again to the issue stating: “I note with caution, therefore, the rumblings of industrial action coming from the hotel sector. I implore both sides to negotiate in good faith.” He implored both sides not to rush to judgement or make any drastic moves that put this nation’s number one industry in jeopardy.
“I hear a lot of harsh words but I am dismayed that there has been little or no negotiations. That is not good! Negotiations must be exhausted before we even start talking about the nuclear options! I will say no more on this other than I am available to both sides to help where I can to bring this to an amicable compromise,” said Mr D’Aguilar.