In the wake of an overwhelming majority of hotel workers voting to strike, Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell yesterday dismissed claims that it is seeking to remove the 15 percent gratuity that employees enjoy, but asserted that “business will go as usual” if there is industrial action.
“As one of the largest resort operators in the hotel industry, our concern is the misinformation that is circulating regarding a process of negotiations that has not yet begun,” Oswell said.
“One such example is that the industry has never suggested removing the 15 percent gratuity.”
On Thursday, the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) voted to strike after what union leaders said were continued difficulties in negotiating a new industrial agreement with their employers.
Director of Labour John Pinder confirmed that more than 2,100 BHCAWU members voted in favor of the strike.
When contacted for comment, Oswell said Atlantis has always “stood by our employees, even for the past six years when there was no contract, as we are always concerned about our employees’ livelihood and well-being”.
“Of course, we do not want a strike but business will go as usual regardless of how this plays out,” she said.
In the days leading up to the strike vote, BHCAWU General Secretary Sheila Burrows said the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association sent a proposal for a new industrial agreement, but the union burned it after finding it had “grave” issues.
Burrows listed mandated a lack of gratuity amounts as well as holiday benefits and increased severity of breaches as issues in BHEA’s proposal.
She noted that while employees in food and beverage normally earn 15 percent for services rendered, the proposal outlines zero percent for fine dining, buffet, banquet, gourmet and specialty restaurants.
When reached for a comment about the strike vote, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said, “I’m not surprised by the vote but I implore the union and the employers to negotiate. I don’t think that sufficient negotiations have occurred to certainly bring it to the point that we’re at now. So, I think that both sides need to sit down and negotiate in good faith.”
Asked if there were any concerns about how a possible strike would impact the growth in tourism numbers, D’Aguilar said, “I’m not even thinking about a strike right now because to me it’s not even on the horizon right now. I would be very disappointed if there wasn’t a lot more negotiations before we even consider that as an option.”
The minister said he believes the atmosphere among hotel employers and employees “needs to be calmed down”.
“Negotiation is a process that requires everybody to talk to each other and I’m not convinced that everybody has exhausted that method as yet,” he said.
“I just want everybody to act responsibly and it’s not just the hotel workers that are impacted by this, the entire country is impacted by this, so, as I said on Tuesday, striking is the nuclear option and we’re not there yet.”