When we wondered in Friday’s paper if a summer of discontent was heading the way of The Bahamas, little did we know another cloud was already forming on the horizon.
Add hotel workers to the list of those with grievances to air – a list that already includes health unions and doctors, teachers and NIB workers, not to mention the ongoing rumblings at the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
The biggest bone of contention for the Bahamas Hotel, Catering & Allied Workers Union is that employers want to get rid of the automatic 15 percent gratuity.
Not just that, but also they want the Christmas bonus to be tied to the hotel’s performance and not guaranteed – and staff might not get the traditional Christmas ham and turkey any more.
Staff, unsurprisingly, are unimpressed, especially as the last industrial agreement expired in 2013, and has left workers without a pay increase since 2012, even as the cost of living – including VAT – went up.
Sheila Burrows, the general secretary of the union, said members had told officials to “burn the proposal”. A strike vote will be held on Thursday.
The 15 percent gratuity is a charged issue for members – and often for hotels too. Hotels look over to all-inclusive resorts which don’t have to add an extra charge to everything and see customers going there because they know exactly how much they’ll spend – and don’t want to lose out on that customer base.
It can also be a pain for customers – do you leave the automatic tip even if the service has been horrible? Do you go through the hassle of removing it if you object? And equally does it limit how much a customer wants to give if they would otherwise be inclined to leave more?
What is certain is that with a low basic rate of pay, gratuities make up a big share of staff’s take-home pay – there are people who literally cannot live without that money.
So if employers want to overcome staff’s doubts about removing gratuities – doubts fuelled no doubt by a lack of desire to offer pay raises in years, it seems – they had better put some serious proposals about substantially raising basic salaries on the table.
No one wants industrial disputes to spread, or come to the front line of tourism, that precious lifeblood of income for our islands.
It remains early days in negotiations, and we hope a resolution can be reached – but we would add, threatening Christmas bonuses on top of gratuities certainly doesn’t stop employers looking like Scrooge.
A glimpse of Grand Bahama’s future
Royal Caribbean International has been proudly showing off its new CocoCay destination – bringing the press over for tours and to try out the attractions.
The Berry Islands location has caught the eye of the world as it offers up something new, something different to the market.
And the promise is that this is a glimpse of things to come.
Eyes now turn to the Grand Lucayan in Grand Bahama, in the hands of Royal Caribbean for the future and with plans for a water theme park on the table, complete with dining, gaming and entertainment, and five-star hotel surroundings.
The pledge is to create a “super destination”.
There’s a long way to go, but if CocoCay is a sign of what Royal Caribbean can do, then we look forward to Grand Bahama’s future.