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Morton Salt Industrial Action Concludes

Morton Salt facilities in Inagua.

Morton Salt facilities in Inagua.

By Youri Kemp

A long-awaited Industrial Agreement was signed yesterday between the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) and Morton Salt Bahamas, ending a two-year industrial dispute.

Michael Nixon, general manager for Morton Salt, said he is committed to fostering a productive working relationship with employees and “is proud to say that they have now reached a five-year agreement” with workers in Inagua.

The president of the BIMAWU, Jennifer Brown, said she is “more than elated” to reach the point where they can officially sign this agreement. It has been more than two years, Brown said, and the workers and officers are “very happy”.

Ms Brown said she hopes both sides can now work together and said she will encourage workers to give a fair eight-hour work day when they return to Inagua.

Earlier this year, there was a mass 40-worker sickout, in addition to other complaints amid what management called an overall slowdown of work habit over the course of this year.

This led to a stand-off between union and management where management threatened to lock staff members out from July 3 unless the company received a reply indicating the two sides could reach a “happy medium” over a new industrial agreement. Management backed down from the lock-out and it was never followed through.

Ms Brown says she hopes managers will “treat all workers fairly” and that even though there is a contract, it is still “just a piece of paper” and encouraged management to “put it into practice”.

President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Obie Ferguson, the lead negotiator for the BIMAWU, said he “strongly suggests” this process is used with all of the unions having issues and sees “no reason” why it cannot be used for the upcoming Water and Sewerage negotiations in an attempt to settle their matter within the next two weeks.

Mr Ferguson said a mechanism that requires “competent” negotiators from employers, government and unions to deal with bargaining impasses involving collective agreements is “critical” as it avoids industrial action.

Mr Ferguson previously argued that Morton Salt’s proposal was a “deficit industrial agreement”, and that they were “insulted” by Morton Salt’s initial offer and further called for salary increases that matched the inflation rate.

He also said previously that the increases being offered to workers over the proposed industrial agreement’s three-year term - 1.5 percent for each of the first two years, and 1.9 percent for the final year - were lower than the current rate of inflation and cost of living increases, which have both been impacted by last year’s VAT rate hike.​

When asked if this new agreement met his targets, Mr Ferguson said they got a “reasonable figure” that was “satisfactory to the union and management of Morton Salt” and that the union voted “unanimously” to accept the proposal.

Mr Nixon also confirmed that the new agreement included wage increases, shift premium increases, production bonuses, holiday pay increases and health insurance coverage.

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