Morton union seeks alternative to staff cuts
Days after Morton Bahamas announced plans to temporarily reduce staff by 50 percent, the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union(BIMAWU), which represents line staff employees, is proposing that alternative measures be taken to save jobs.
Last week, Morton Bahamas Limited disclosed that excessive rainfall had effectively halted salt production at the Inagua facility, forcing the company to significantly reduce both operations and its workforce for an undetermined period of time.
Morton explained that it will retain some employees to maintain and ship its inventory of previously harvested salt and conduct other necessary activities and will recall the laid-off employees when production resumes.
BIMAWU President Ronald Roker said yesterday the union has forwarded a letter to the company proposing that staff take early vacation or be placed on a reduced workweek.
Roker said it is a move the union believes would be beneficial to both the employer and employees.
“I am quite sure we can come to some solution to resolve this matter,”he said.
“We are looking at the high possibility of a three-day work week for all of the employees and also early vacation. The vacation that we would normally get in 2011 we would get early in January and February and that would take care of our vacation for the year and, hopefully, if weather permits we will have a successful harvesting season.”
Morton Bahamas currently employs 144 people. Around 50 percent would stay onboard during the period with the remaining workers placed on short-term layoffs while still keeping their job benefits, according to a company official.
Roker said no date has been given for when the layoffs will come into effect, however, he noted that the company has complied with the industrial agreement giving employees sufficient notice about its intent.
Roker said employees have mixed feelings regarding the proposal as they continue to weather the hard economic times and the Christmas season is just weeks away.
“This is a difficult situation for all of us the company and our employees especially around the holidays,”said Morton General Manager Glenn Bannister in an earlier statement released to the press.
“The company is limited in what we can do to lessen the impact, but we will try to do what we can. What is most important is to get through this in the short-term so we can ensure the facility is viable for the long-term.
“To a great extent, we rely on the sun to provide us with salt to produce and sell. Unfortunately the rains have taken away both the salt and the work. I look forward to better weather and getting people back to work.”
The excessive rain on the island over the past month played a large role in halting the operations, and the weather that occurred during the passage of Hurricane Tomas through The Bahamas also affected the company.
The facility relies heavily on Inagua’s normally dry weather conditions to produce the salt, as it allows saltwater in ponds to evaporate, which eventually stimulates the formation of salt crystals at the bottom of the pond. Excessive rain reverses the process and dissolves the salt crystals in the ponds, leaving the facility without product to harvest.
According to Roker, company and union officials are scheduled to meet today with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes to address the situation.
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