Tuesday, Jul 23, 2019
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Morton Bahamas threatens employee lockout

Morton Bahamas Ltd. has threatened to lock employees out of its plant on Inagua after the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) failed to attend several meetings to negotiate a new industrial agreement, the company said yesterday.

The union and the Inagua-based salt company have been negotiating a new industrial agreement for several months.

“The foregoing requires the company to consider whether, in the declared industrial action climate, it is necessary for the company to lock employees out of the plant in furtherance of the company’s bargaining objectives in negotiations for a new industrial agreement,” Morton Bahamas Ltd. Chief Negotiator Christopher Getaz said in a June 18, 2019 letter to BIMAWU President Jennifer Brown.

“We invite a response from you within the next 15 days with a view to arriving at a happy medium between the parties. Failing such a response, or the arrival to a happy medium between the parties, the company intends to proceed with its lockout at the expiry of 15 days from the date of this letter.”

In negotiating the new agreement, BIMAWU has taken issue with employee wages, vacation times and retirement pay.

In November, 70 members of the union took a strike vote with 68 voting in favor of a strike and two against, according to Director of Labour John Pinder. 

In his letter, Getaz cited several instances of “industrial action activities” in recent months that he said “affected the production at and the economic viability of the plant”.

He said those activities included several instances of reduced operating speed; an instance of “perceived sabotage” of company vehicles; continued slowdown in production through the months of May and June and “unwillingness on the part of BIMAWU to bargain in good faith”.

“Notwithstanding an agreement between the company and executives of BIMAWU as to convenient dates to resume negotiations, you and other representatives of BIMAWU failed and/or refused to attend negotiations at the Labour Board on both Tuesday 11th June, 2019 and Wednesday 12th June, 2019,” the letter said.

“The company is of the view that this consistent non-cooperative behavior by the BIMAWU does not represent a commitment on its part to negotiate in good faith. Conversely, at all times the company, in good faith and at great expense, made appropriate arrangements to coordinate travel and accommodation of its representatives to attend the resumption of contract negotiations, as agreed.”

Morton Bahamas said that the offer it provided on June 13 was its “best and final” offer.

“The company is not in a position to make further offers. As such, the company has no alternative other than to perceive the parties as having arrived at an impasse,” the letter said.

Brown said yesterday that the offer proposes a 1.5 percent pay raise in the first year, 1.5 percent in the second year and 1.7 in the third. She said that it is not enough to compensate for increased monthly insurance costs, which employees contribute to.

The letter added, “The company is unable to ignore the strike certificate which BIMAWU has in its possession; the industrial action threatened by the BIMAWU in support of its bargaining objectives; and/or the refusal of the BIMAWU to de-escalate the current affairs by publicly dispelling the perception or notion of its intended industrial action.”

Foulkes, Pinder, Trade Union Congress President Obie Ferguson and Oscar Johnson, who represents Morton Bahamas Ltd., were copied on the letter.
 
 
 

Rachel Knowles

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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