NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) yesterday issued a cease order for all Altantis Resort and Casino hoteliers who participate in work activities outside of their job description as the union began work to rule in response to what it claims are breaches of its members’ rights.
According to BHCAWU President Darrin Woods, the resort implemented in September a 12-point disciplinary system that negatively impacts workers and their benefits, and introduced a new shift system for housekeepers — all without the agreement or input of the union.
Woods said the union’s members voted during a special call meeting that month to take action.
The union also filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour Monday.
“We have done all that we can to avert us getting to this point, but because they have decided that this is something they want regardless of how it affects the membership — they’re going to take it — and we say to them, we’re not going to sit by and allow the rights of our members to be trampled on,” Woods said during a press conference at Workers House.
“…Yes, we believe the company has to manage and they have to do some things, but all of what they have to do has to be within the context of our industrial agreement, and also industrial harmony.”
As it relates to the 12-point reporting system, Woods claimed the resort’s management advised that the system change was necessary due to an increase in infractions across the property.
He said the union asked management to produce evidence to support their claim, but none was provided.
According to the union, the more points accrued, the more likely an employee can be terminated.
Woods said this is a direct breach of the union’s industrial agreement.
That agreement expired in 2013.
The union has been in preliminary discussions to execute a new five-year agreement.
“They want to create their own way of operating,” Woods said of the resort’s management.
“They have not discussed it nor have they been able to provide statistical data to show that they have reason to move in the direction they have gone in.
“In addition to that, with the implementation of the point system it actually causes hardship on our members because some of the benefits and conditions that they were enjoying before, it now goes away because of this system that they’ve implemented.”
Housekeepers at the resort 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.
Woods said while there were a handful of housekeepers interested in working the new shifts, unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment cannot be made without the consent of the union.
Woods was joined by executives of the National Congress of Trade Union Bahamas; the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union and the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union.
NCTUB President Bernard Evans suggested yesterday that mass action is looming, pointing out that the unions representing nurses, employees of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company staff and Morton Salt, among many others, are challenged.
“This country is headed in a direction that time has run out. It is unfortunate now that we are leading into the Christmas season and members [are] certainly a little bit skeptical about money coming into their pocket, and may be a little bit reluctant to take action at this particular time. I can promise you members of the press, it ain’t long now.”
NCTUB First Vice President and BEWU President Paul Maynard issued a similar charge.
He also called on the government to intervene.
The umbrella union has 19 affiliates.
The BHCAWU has been in preliminary discussions for a new agreement with the Bahamas Hotel and Restaurant Employers Association following legal proceedings in which the BHEA charged that the union failed to submit its proposal for a new agreement in the prescribed timeframe — 90 days before the agreement expired in January 2013.
The BHEA was unsuccessful in the Supreme Court.
Attempts to reach Atlantis Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ed Fields were unsuccessful up to press time.