Tourism minister warns industry at “very sensitive stage”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday warned the country’s tourism sector is at a ‘very sensitive stage’ as he chastised hotel workers over an ill-timed protest at the Atlantis resort.
D’Aguilar stressed the industry can afford no further shocks post-Dorian, adding he was ‘extremely disappointed’ the hotel union opted to picket during one of the busiest periods.
“I was extremely disappointed at this critical period,” D’Aguilar said.
“Thanksgiving being possibly the second busiest time of the year that this would be a time for the union to conduct their industrial action. As you can imagine our tourism sector was inflicted with millions upon millions of dollars of negative public relations as a result of Hurricane Dorian and the tourism sector is recovering from the effects of that negative public relations.
“Anything at this time that negatively impacts our tourism sector like industrial action causes a problem on top of another problem.”
Yesterday, Woods said the union’s primary goal is to secure a “registered” industrial agreement for its membership, but other key issues include: the recent shift change at the Four Seasons Ocean Club; outsourcing in laundry areas at Atlantis resort; and recent terminations.
He continued: “This is the period where we must demonstrate to the world that despite their lack knowledge of the geography of The Bahamas and their impression, that The Bahamas as a country has been destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, that it is very important that when people come here they find first of all that the country was not destroyed – over 95 per cent of our tourism infrastructure is up and running, and that they are met with not only a tourism sector that is operating as it has done. But they are greeted with friendly faces and exceptional customer service.
D’Aguilar said: “They can then report to the world that not only is The Bahamas open for business but that the service and experience have been exceptional.”
“In order to ensure we rebound quickly, we must do all we can do present our visitors with an exceptional experience. I implore as I have done in the past that the employers and the employees work this problem out because they will both suffer from it.”
Scores of disgruntled hotel workers picketed outside several Atlantis properties yesterday in response to recent shift changes and other unresolved issues.
Bahamas Hotel Catering & Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) president Darrin Woods told Eyewitness News Online the demonstration signaled looming industrial action as workers were frustrated with the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association’s (BHEA) ineffective posturing on labor issues.
However, an Atlantis executive yesterday told Eyewitness News Online that ongoing labour negotiations between the union and the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association (BHEA) were progressing well.
The resorts that are members of the BHEA bargaining unit are Melia, Atlantis, Ocean Club, Harborside, the British Colonial Hilton, Lyford Cay Club and Towne Hotel. Significantly, Sandals Royal Bahamian, SuperClubs Breezes and Baha Mar are not included.
Ed Fields, Alantis’s vice-president of public relations, said: “We do not know why the union is acting in this manner. You should ask Mr Woods directly what is the basis of this action. This was unforeseen. Negotiations were moving along fairly swiftly and calmly and without contention. Today at 1 pm we were supposed to sign 36 out of 48 sections of the future agreement. Negotiations were moving along without contention.
“We don’t know what this is about,” Fields said.