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Hotels and unions told: Calm down

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

By Khrisna Russell

Tribune Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar urged the hotel union and industry officials to allow “calmer heads to prevail”, insisting that a strike at this time would have a devastating impact on soaring tourism numbers.

“Get into a room and ensure they come to an amicable solution,” the minister said yesterday in his appeal to all involved.

On Monday, The Tribune reported that the Bahamas Hotel, Catering & Allied Workers Union was slated to hold a strike vote tomorrow after rejecting the industry’s proposal to eliminate the automatic 15 percent gratuity and other worker benefits as “a slap in the face”.

Also addressing the issue, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said the government was very concerned, but while workers may want a resolution now, there seemed to be issues in arranging a time for negotiations.

Mr Foulkes said he understood the union’s position and the matter was considered a top priority for the government.

For his part, Mr D’Aguilar told reporters outside Cabinet: “The union has expressed that there are four items that have really caused them enormous concern. Obviously the elimination of the automatic 15 percent gratuity, the elimination of the ham and turkey, the payment of the Christmas bonus in January as opposed to December and the Christmas bonus being based on the profitability of the hotel as opposed to just a multiple of your weekly wage.

“This is a negotiation process and I implore both parties not to get the workers prematurely upset. The employers have come out with their ask and the response by the union has been quite clear.

“I consider a strike the nuclear option and we are a long way from that so I would implore both the union and the employers to get into a room and ensure that they come to an amicable solution.

“A strike at this time in the hotel industry would be devastating.”

The tourism minister said 55 percent of the Bahamas’ economy is based on tourism and thousands depend on it to live.

“Taxi drivers, straw vendors, hotel workers, restaurant workers, tens of thousands of workers depend on the tourism industry for their livelihood with the coming on stream of Baha Mar and with the growth in the other hotels 5,000 to 6,000 additional workers have entered into the tourism market and are benefitting directly from the tourism market.

“So we have to be very very careful and implore both parties to get into a room (and) let calmer heads prevail and ensure that we don’t get to where I think we are headed and to ensure that whatever we come up with is good for both parties.”

He continued: “No one will be happy 100 percent but always keep in the back of your head 55 percent of our gross domestic product is derived from tourism. So if these negotiations go awry this will affect the entire country, so let calmer heads prevail.”

Sheila Burrows, the Bahamas Hotel, Catering & Allied Workers Union’s (BHCAWU) general secretary, told Tribune Business recently that the recent offer by resort employers threatened to take the union’s 4,000-5,000 membership “back 60 years”.

She spoke after union members burnt copies of the industry’s proposal during a heated meeting at Workers House on Thursday night.

“They want to take away the 15 percent gratuity. They want to change the terms and conditions of an employee,” she said. “If you had a matter in court years ago they want to have the right to dig that up and decide if they are going to terminate you.

“The Christmas bonus issue is a very contentious one. We know that the people in the hotel get their bonuses for Christmas; the second payday in December. What they propose is that they want the Christmas bonuses to be given the second pay week in January. The proposal doesn’t say that you shall receive it; it says you may receive it if the resort meets its quota.

“They are being blatantly disrespectful. Regarding the ham and turkey, they say they may give a $50 voucher. They are trying to take away all the benefits the hotel union has negotiated. What are they trying to do to the people? They are trying to do all sorts of things to stop us from sitting down at the negotiating table. We want to sit down at the table and negotiate for our members and we also want a registered agreement,” Ms Burrows added.

“We had a meeting with our membership and they told us to burn the proposal. The proposal was a slap in the face. They don’t want to give a one percent pay increase but they want to take away the 15 percent gratuity from the workers. Hotel workers haven’t had a pay increase since 2012.

“The workers are the ones who make the senior management at these resorts look good; they make the hotel look good, they take care of the guests. We are at the point where the membership is fed up. The union is going to ensure that their rights are not infringed upon. The proposal by the BHREA leaves a lot to be desired,” she said.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 12 months ago

All of these union members gonna get swing real bad by the corrupt politicians and their very own union leaders. LMAO

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