Minister set to intervene on hotel industrial deal



Tribune Business Reporters


Pia Glover-Rolle

THE minister of labour will today meet with hotel union executives to discuss the latest counter-proposal from resort employees in a bid to break the stalemate over industrial agreement talks.

Howard Thompson, the Government’s director of labour, told Tribune Business that the Bahamas Hotel and Restaurant Employers Association (BHREA) had lived up to its promise and yesterday provided officials with a new offer that will be presented to Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) representatives today.

Declining to provide details on the proposal, he said: “The Department of Labour and myself have received the counter-proposal from Atlantis and the hotel employers. It’s under seal, and myself and the mediation team would like for the minister to meet with the hotel union executives to discuss this further with them and that’s scheduled for tomorrow.”

Mr Thompson declined to comment further, but it is thought that the minister’s intervention will seek to explain the background and context in which the hotels - Atlantis, the Ocean Club, Lyford Cay Club and Town Hotel - have come up with their latest offer and what the sector can bear financially.

Darrin Woods, the hotel union’s president could not be reached for comment, but Mrs Glover-Rolle had earlier pledged that the Government will act as “mediator” in a bid to break the impasse over what would be the hotel industry’s first industrial agreement for a decade, the last one having expired in early 2013.

She said the Davis administration will ensure Atlantis employees are in “no way disenfranchised”. Mrs Glover-Rolle added: “We are doing what the Department of Labour does. We’re lending our support as mediators.

“Techniques are ensuring that both sides understand because, in some instances, it’s the way matters are determined by one side as opposed to the other in terms of understanding how this amelioration needs to happen.”

She continued: “The BHCAWU want a percentage added to the tipped categories. The employer is feeling they have already done a portion of that. That’s not what the hotel union is accepting. So it’s just a matter of understanding that the formula that is used and applied is consistent with industry standards.”

Members of the 5,000- strong hotel union were last week said to have held-off on plans to go on ‘work to rule’ as the first step in escalating industrial action in a bid to provide time for more negotiations to complete negotiations.

Mr Woods last week complained that the Association was sticking to its previously stated position, which is that tipped workers and other minimum wage staff will not necessarily receive the 8 percent “across-the-board” salary increase the BHCAWU wants for all members.

Its stance is that such workers, who mainly gain the bulk of their income from guest tips, should receive “which- ever is greater” - last year’s minimum wage increase or an 8 percent pay rise, but not both - when it comes to their base salary.

This would mean that if a hotel worker’s base pay increased by more than 8 percent due to the Government raising the minimum wage last year, they would not be entitled to a further rise under the new industrial agreement.

And he alleged that the Association had also revised its position such that its members want to deduct the 3 percent pay increase they gave voluntarily to non-tipped staff last year from that 8 percent, thus cutting their pay rise to 5 percent. The four unionised properties involved are Atlantis, the Ocean Club, Lyford Cay Club and Town Hotel.

Mr Miller, the senior Atlantis executive and Bahamas Hotel and Restaurant Employers Association president, previously said in a statement that both sides had “agreed to all financial and non-financial terms” for the industrial agreement and the impasse was ‘unexpected’.

He said: “Both sides had already agreed to all financial and non-financial terms and conditions in the new agreement, and we were in the process of vetting and binding documents for signature. This unexpected, 11th-hour impasse is incredibly unfair to our bargaining unit team members who have worked without an agreement since 2013 due to the union’s failure to put a new contract forward.

“We have continued to honour and operate under the terms of the expired agreement without fail. We will not allow today to derail our commitment to finalising a new agreement as soon as possible.” The reference to the “union’s failure” refers to the fact it did not submit an offer for a new industrial deal 90 days or more before the last agreement’s expiry in 2013 as the contract mandated it must do.”


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