Hotel employers did not intend to reduce or remove gratuity for employees, but wanted, rather, to establish uniformity with regard to the distribution of gratuity among different workers, The Nassau Guardian understands.
Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) members overwhelmingly voted to strike on Thursday amid assertions that, in negotiating a new industrial agreement, their employers proposed to reduce gratuity amounts from 15 percent to zero in some dining areas.
Director of Labour John Pinder confirmed that more than 2,100 members voted in favor of the strike.
The Bahamas Hotel Employers Association (BHEA) represented the employers, which included Atlantis, the Reef, the Cove, Harborside Resort, Melia Nassau Beach, British Colonial Hilton, Lyford Cay Club, the Ocean Club and Towne Hotel.
The last union agreement expired in January 2013. The union’s proposal for a new agreement was submitted in December 2018.
In what the union said was an attempt to remove the 15 percent gratuity, the BHEA proposal left spaces for gratuity percentages blank.
However, on Friday, after news broke that the union voted to strike, Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell dismissed the claims that it was seeking to remove 15 percent gratuity.
The Guardian understands that the amounts were left blank because the intention was to begin to discuss how to better distribute the gratuity.
Currently, numerous formulae are in place to calculate the distribution depending on the area of the hotel.
However, hotels are seeking to simplify the process to make distribution more uniform.
For instance, as it stands, not only waiters get the 15 percent gratuity that appears on food and beverage checks.
The amount is pooled and distributed among waiters, the maitre d’, bus boys and back of the house staff, in many instances.
Different establishments sometimes have different distribution formulas.
The hotels are seeking to have those distribution formulas streamlined and set out in the agreement, The Guardian understands.
The BHEA proposal, which has not been made public by the hotels or the union, calls for hotel and union agreement on distribution formulas for several areas, including rooms and conventions.
The BHEA has not commented on its proposal or the strike, despite numerous requests.
Following BHCAWU’s announcement of the strike vote, General Secretary Sheila Burrows said last week that the decision to hold the poll was in light of “grave issues” found with the proposal from BHEA for a new industrial agreement.
Burrows listed the gratuity amounts as well as holiday benefits and increased severity of breaches as issues in BHEA’s proposal.
Oswell said the hotel employers were concerned about “misinformation” regarding the negotiation process that has yet to start.
When contacted about the matter yesterday, Pinder said he had requested a copy of BHEA’s proposal to review.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has urged the union and the employers to come to an agreement and avoid a strike.
BHCAWU President Darrin Woods said on the morning of the vote that a strike would be a last resort option, and that he hopes the strike certificate will “balance the scale” in the union’s negotiations with the employers.