Thursday, Dec 13, 2018
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Hotel workers on bizarre course

The Bahamas suffered the decade after the 2008 financial crisis. In truth, we’re just emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Years of contraction, stagnation and low growth are finally giving way to better times.

Tourism is the main industry in the country. This year there has been historic growth – and that growth has been in the all-important stopover segment.

Through September, foreign air arrivals to The Bahamas were up 16.5 percent, as compared to 2017. These visitors spend somewhere between $1,400 and $1,500 per person. When they come to The Bahamas in large numbers hotel workers, restaurateurs and their employees, taxi drivers, straw vendors and others in the industry do well.

Strong economic growth in the United States and Canada is fueling our success. Hotel closures in the Caribbean due to the 2017 hurricane season and the opening of Baha Mar have also drawn people to our shores.

We are coming to one of the peak tourist seasons. The warm Bahamas is a place to be during Christmas and New Year’s. These are the times for all in the business to focus on making money.

Many hotel workers make a major part of their salaries from gratuities and tips. The more people at the resort during peak season, the more the workers make.

The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union has taken a bizarre position. The union is threatening industrial action against Atlantis, which is the largest private employer in the country.

In its nearly 25 years in The Bahamas, the resort has employed tens of thousands of people. It revived the Bahamian economy in the 1990s, and has propped it up ever since.

The union takes issue with the resort implementing a 12-point-system and a shift change for housekeepers reportedly without input from the union.

According to hotel union President Darrin Woods, Atlantis implemented the system in order to track employee lateness and absences. The union opposes the resort’s moves.

The resort and union have been in talks, but no resolution has been reached.

The union continues its bellicose rhetoric. Woods now says it is extremely likely that Atlantis’ employees will take a strike vote before the end of the year.

The union and workers seem out of touch with reality. So many Bahamians spent the decade after the financial crisis struggling to survive. So many lost their homes. So many had to take their children out of private schools. So many had their utilities disconnected. It makes no sense that as soon as tourism starts to recover, the workers threaten to strike.

The workers at Atlantis should be grateful to be employed. They should come to work every day with the mindset of making the resort an enjoyable place for the thousands of people who come there and spend their money. Strike talk over such simple matters is silly and harmful to the business.

The union and workers need to move away from the old hostile mindset toward capital. They should think of their relationship with Atlantis as a partnership. At money-making time, you do not withdraw labor. That hurts all partners in the equation.

With this historic year in air arrivals everyone in the tourism economy should be focused on making as much as possible. The union shows immaturity and lack of vision by the course it has taken.

Keep talking with the resort and work toward compromise. Don’t harm the business that feeds you.

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