Foulkes: Labour officials addressing hotel union’s issues

Foulkes: Labour officials addressing hotel union’s issues
Minister of Labour and Senator Dion Foulkes

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the union representing more than 5,000 hoteliers continued work to rule across several hotel properties yesterday, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said Department of Labour officials will meet with executives of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) and Atlantis’ senior management next Monday in hopes of averting further industrial action.

According to the union, the work to rule was prompted by a recently imposed shift system at Atlantis that impacts 600 housekeepers and a 12-point disciplinary system which the union claims negatively impacts its members and their benefits, even in cases of minor infractions.

Outside the Churchill Building, Foulkes said, “I do not want to get into the details of it, but we are speaking to the managers at Atlantis and we are also speaking to the hotel union to see if we can get it resolved. As you know, tourism is our number one bread earner and as a government, we want to do everything to ensure stability in the hotel industry, but both sides must be respected at all times, and we are in dialogue with both sides.”

He noted that Director of Labour John Pinder and Senior Deputy Director of Labour Althea Albury were personally addressing the matter. Executives of the BHCAWU said Monday that it instructed its members to discontinue any work activity outside of their job descriptions until further notice.

Pointing out that the Thanksgiving weekend will see an influx of an enormous number of tourists coming to The Bahamas, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said in a separate interview yesterday that the threat of industrial action is “very worrying” for tourism.

He said he has spoken to Atlantis officials and was assured a resolution will be brought about quickly.

“I’m hoping that is true because we really don’t need this right now,” D’Aguilar noted.

BHCAWU President Darrin Woods said the union voted to initiate industrial action on September 25 and filed a trade dispute with the department a month later.

He said the next steps will be to go slow, and then a vote to strike if there is no resolution.

Atlantis housekeepers currently work two shifts — 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

The new shift system would require them to work one of three shifts: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., according to the union.

As it relates to the new disciplinary system, Woods said minor infractions that would usually receive several verbal warnings before a written warning in a prescribed timeframe, all now accrue points on the new system, which can lead to swift termination.

He said both of these measures were implemented in late September.

According to the Foulkes, the overarching issue between the union and the Bahamas Hotel and Employers Association (BHEA) is the new industrial agreement.

“We hope to get the matters resolved,” he said. “One the main issues; well, the general issue is a new contract. We need to have a new contract for the hotel union and for the Bahamas Hotel [Employers] Association. That is the overriding issue…”

The union’s last agreement expired in 2013.

The union has been in preliminary discussions to execute a new five-year agreement.

Woods said the union has a recognition agreement that grants the union a right to bargain all existing terms and conditions, as well as any new conditions the hotel wants to implement.