Hotel union strike vote was about lack of negotiations
Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said yesterday that the union’s decision to hold a strike vote was not based on issues with gratuity, but rather on the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association’s (BHEA) failure to commence negotiations.
“This was not the basis of our strike vote request,” he said.
“It was based on the outstanding disputes at the various properties.”
He added, “There is one issue that connected all of the properties.
“That was the employers’ failure to commence negotiation.”
There has been tension between the two sides over the past few months over the negotiation of a new industrial agreement. The union’s last agreement expired in 2013. BHCAWU’s proposals were sent to employers between December 2018 and January 2019.
Citing the Industrial Relations Act, Woods said that the employers should have met with the union within 45 days of receiving the union’s proposals, but failed to do so.
BHCAWU members overwhelmingly voted to strike two weeks ago in a poll that General Secretary Sheila Burrows said was the result of “grave issues” found with the proposal from BHEA, which is representing Atlantis, the Reef, the Cove, Harborside Resort, Melia Nassau Beach, British Colonial Hilton, Lyford Cay Club, the Ocean Club and Towne Hotel.
Talks of the removal of gratuity for hotel workers dominated the strike vote discussions. In what the union said was an attempt to remove the 15 percent gratuity, the BHEA proposal for a new industrial agreement left spaces for gratuity percentages blank.
Following the vote, however, BHEA said that gratuity was never at stake.
Last week, BHEA President Russell Miller said the union made an uninformed assumption, and used the gratuity to “rile up fears” from its members.
He called the actions of BHCAWU “unprofessional and irresponsible” and criticized the union for its delay in submitting its proposal for a new industrial agreement.
However, Woods said the delay was the result of the hotels’ refusal to come to the table to negotiate a new agreement, and their insistence that the old agreement be extended instead.
Woods said the union received its strike certificate yesterday and will now begin the 30-day cool off period, during which it cannot strike.
While the two sides have not yet met to commence negotiations, both sides have proposed dates. Woods said that he has proposed July 9, 11 and 12 as dates for the two sides to meet.