Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said yesterday union members have voted in favor of taking industrial action against Atlantis Resort.
Woods said a vote to commence industrial action was taken on September 27 and a trade dispute was filed with the Department of Labour on October 25.
He said the decision to take industrial action was the result of the implementation of a 12-point-system and a shift change for housekeepers without input from the union.
“Since we had a special call general meeting, the members unanimously voted to take industrial action against the Atlantis resort so we’re here now to put our membership at large, those covered by the [Bahamas Hotels Employers Association], on what we call ‘alert’,” Woods said.
“They’re now on work-to-rule as of today.”
Woods said the work-to-rule meant the 5,000 affected employees would only “do what [they’re] hired to do”.
He said a “go slow and an outright strike” would follow if a resolution is not found.
The 12-point-system was implemented approximately September 25-28, according to the BHCAWU president.
It tracks the lateness and absenteeism of employees.
But Woods said it “gives life to breaches longer than our agreement calls for”.
“Our agreement presently says that if Darrin commits a breach, you have four days in which to act if you don’t act then the breach is null and void,” he said.
“But now they’ve assessed points to those breaches…which gives the breach a long life. The more points you get the possibility of you being terminated is one thing.”
He said the union’s industrial agreement addresses discipline for such infractions but “now they want to go and create their own way” of operation.
Woods said the system was not discussed with the union and Atlantis representatives have not been able to provide “statistical data to show that they have reason to move in the direction they’ve gone in”.
“It’s clear that they have no intentions on working or negotiating in good faith because if they were going to they would’ve, at least…at minimum, give the union the information we requested because you want us to make a decision based on what you say is happening [and] we can’t make a decision in a vacuum,” he said.
He said the system also reduces employee benefits.
“If my restaurant closes at 11, we finish work at 10 o’clock because I am at work and I’m guaranteed a day’s pay once the restaurant closes I can leave,” Woods said.
“Now they’re saying that I have to until 11 o’clock even though the restaurant is closed.”
Addressing the shift system, Woods said the system would move employees in the housekeeping department from working 8 to 4 or 3 to 11 shifts to working either: 9 to 5, 10 to 6, or 7 to 3.
He said changes cannot be made to an employee’s shift without the employee agreeing to the change.
He claims there was no employee input before the change was proposed.
“We went in (to the hotel) [and] we found some persons who identified that they would’ve been interested [in the system], not many, but the fact is those persons were interested in working those shifts,” Woods said.
“…Our agreement calls for if you were hired for a specific shift and time period, you have a right to remain on that shift unless there is [a] major reorganizational change going on in the hotel, [but] that isn’t happening.”
He said at least 600 housekeepers would be affected by this system.
Although the BHCAWU is in the process of renegotiating its expired industrial agreement, Woods said it has a recognition agreement which grants the union the “right to bargain all existing terms and conditions, and any new conditions that you want to implement”.
He said Atlantis has indicated that it will go ahead with the implementation of the shift “which puts our membership at a disadvantage”.
“We believe we have been very patient and also would’ve discharged our duty as a union in terms of trying reach out to management to bring about a resolve, but as of today’s date we are placing our membership, the ones covered by the BHEA, on what we call [a] work-to-rule,” Woods said.
Woods said this “take what I want” mentality could have a ripple effect on other hotels employees.
“In our system, if Atlantis is able to get away with it, Hilton will then go and do it, Melia will then do it, Lyford Cay will because our president has actually endorsed this,” he said.
When contacted for comment yesterday, Atlantis said: “We will address any concerns with the Department of Labour as required by longstanding protocols.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice