By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A UNION leader yesterday predicted said Morton Salt might have to rehire some of the 24 workers it terminated last month on the basis that the salt harvester is now too “short staffed”.
Jennifer Brown, president of the Bahamas Industrial, Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU), told Tribune Business that the Inagua-based operation’s workforce has dropped from 220 to around 80 over the past two years.
Arguing that Morton Salt cannot continue operating efficiently at those numbers, she added: “The staff left behind after the redundancy is just doing the best they can.”
Ms Brown said she feels that the persons released were not compensated fairly as “there was no severance pay”, only redundancy pay. “We have a contract, and if the company says redundancy then the position cannot be filled, but from what’s going on out here, it’s like you are requiring one person to do two persons’ work right now,” she added.
Complaining that the company is “very much short staffed”, Ms Brown added: “Because this new company took over, they just wanted to reduce the staff to see how much people they really needed.
“I believe they might have to rehire a lot of persons. This is just from my general observation, because we used to have over 200 employees, but now we don’t even have 80 yet they expect the work to get done.
“It is near impossible to do the same level of work with less than half of the staff that Morton Salt was used to in the recent past, which is only part of the problem. The thing is the workers are not being compensated for the heavier workload.
“Every department they let someone go and people have positions they need filled. So we are just going to basic and important stuff now, and the rest just lags behind and when you get to it, you get to it.” filled. So we are just going
Morton Salt was last year sold by German conglomerate, K + S, to US-based Stone Canyon Industries Holdings and its salt producing subsidiary, Kissner, in a deal that valued its worldwide holdings at $3.2bn.
Ms Brown, meanwhile, said workers are “walking on eggshells” as a result of the last redundancy exercise because they want to remain efficient. However, she added that maintenance on machinery is now lacking. “Things we never used to do before, they are asking employees to do it now, and they feel unsafe,” Ms Brown said.
A meeting is being planned for this week between Morton Salt management and union representatives to address these concerns.
A Morton Salt spokesperson promised to respond to Tribune Business inquiries but no reply was received before press time last night.
Morton Salt informed Dion Foulkes, minister of labour, of the latest redundancies in an August 6, 2021, letter. Vivian Moultrie, the Inagua-based salt harvester’s operations manager, confirmed that 18 line staff and six managerial staff were impacted, eight of whom had been with the company for 40 years or more. Another five had been employed for between 35-39 years, with the longest serving racking up 46 years.
The redundancies were justified on the basis that available work had “diminished” while there were no other roles the impacted employees were capable of performing. Mr Moultrie, revealing that the redundancies were set to take effect from August 23, 2021, said: “As a result of the prevailing circumstances, particularly those associated with the current plant efficiencies, it is necessary to make the employees redundant as the requirements of Morton Bahamas for employees to carry out the work done by the employees have diminished and are not expected to return for the foreseeable future.
“Further, we are able to confirm that efforts towards reassignment have been made to the greatest extent possible, and that there are currently no other positions within Morton Bahamas which require filling or to which the employees’ experience and skill set would be relevant.
“Outside of the employees, Morton Bahamas does not intend to make any other employees redundant at this time. In accordance with the Employment Act, should Morton Bahamas have cause to recruit employees in roles relevant to the employees within the ensuing 12 months, the employees will enjoy priority in this selection process.”
Those impacted ranges from maintenance and production supervisors to equipment operators, mechanics, technicians and plant operators.