Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday he was concerned by threats of industrial action by the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) and warned that nothing must be done to impede the country’s number one industry.
He called on calmer heads to prevail in the negotiations between the union and the hotels.
While the union has had issues since earlier in the year, D’Aguilar stressed that the tourism industry is especially vulnerable in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
“Tourism is the engine of the economy, and we must do everything we possible can to replace what we have lost, and so, I’m deeply concerned and I want everyone to think long and hard before they make any rash decisions that can impact tourism,” he said outside Cabinet.
He added, “When we were having these discussions back in April, May, June, we were in a far different place than we are now.
“You cannot ignore the fact that we have been significantly impacted by Hurricane Dorian. And that changes a lot of things, and what you may have considered something you could have done back then, you really have to seriously consider that now, because the country is reeling from lost revenue and enormously increased expenses, and so we can’t in any way negatively impact that any further. We have to be very very careful not to impede or negatively impact our number one industry.”
Strike certificate in hand, the BHCAWU is claiming that industrial agreement negotiations with some hotels are not going well.
An overwhelming majority of BHCAWU members voted to strike earlier this year after continued difficulties in negotiating a new industrial agreement with their employers.
The members who took part in the vote were employees of Atlantis, the Reef, the Cove, Harborside Resort, Melia Nassau Beach, British Colonial Hilton, Lyford Cay Club, the Ocean Club and Towne Hotel.
There has been tension over the negotiation of new industrial agreements with several properties. BHCAWU President Darren Woods said last week that, aside from Ocean Club, the union still has five outstanding agreements. They are still in negotiations with Restaurants Bahamas, Graycliff and three other groups. The union’s last agreement expired in 2013.
“Our members don’t have any rights,” Woods claimed.
“…And listen, the employer has a right to make changes to run their business, but there’s a process that is set out.”
He added, “The next step, because we want to take it slow, [is] work-to-rule, then go-slow, and then [strike]. And it won’t necessarily be in that order. It depends.”
Several unions came out in support of BHCAWU, including the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB), National Insurance Board (NIB) and the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), which are all at odds with their respective employers.