Privy Council: BHMAWU has right to represent Sandals workers
Days after the Privy Council ruled that the Bahamas Hotel Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU) has the right to represent workers at the all-inclusive Sandals Resort, the union is proposing to begin negotiations on behalf of the employees as early as Friday.
A February 23 ruling by the London court affirmed BHMAWU as the bargaining agent for the near 500 workers, after the Court of Appeal ruled that the labor organization was null and void as it was not properly registered.
Both the BHMAWU and the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) have been battling for more than three years to gain the right to represent the line-staff workers at the Cable Beach resort.
In November 2008, the 12 executives of the BHMAWU were cut from the property’s staff as the economic downturn continued to take its toll on the country’s number one industry.
Yesterday the union’s legal advisor Obie Ferguson called on Labour Minister Dion Foulkes to commence proceedings to have those officers re-instated to their positions. He claimed they were terminated as a result of their involvement with the union.
“We also called on the minister of labour to instruct the director of labour to conciliate those disputes that he refused to conciliate from 2006 for the wrongful termination of over 60 persons, who would have filed trade disputes at the Labour Board. They refused to accept it because they said the union did not exist, and now the Privy Council has ruled it has been in existence since 2001,” Ferguson said.
In the ruling, the Privy Council noted that the members of the union are entitled to know where they stand, and for more than a year they have, on the strength of an unchallenged poll, been treated as members of a union recognized as a bargaining agent. “Fairness and good administration requires that they should be confirmed in that position,” said the high court.
“We consider that to be a landmark case for the maintenance union and the 500 workers. This is a decision that would affect the whole nation because it is probably the first case that would have happened that involved a situation of this nature,” said Ferguson, adding, “the workers are very happy and pleased with it.
BHMAWU was registered as a trade union on November 22, 2001.
In 2006 Sandals gave recognition to the BHCAWU.
Yesterday BHCAWU Secretary General Darrin Woods said the ruling now means that it must co-exist with the BHMAWU.
He explained that at this point the union’s membership has not been affected.
“We want to wish those persons at Sandals all the best. It is sad to know that they won’t be a part of all that the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union has to offer, but at any time if they want to be a part of us, we are ready, willing and able,” he said.