NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Unofficial results tallied from yesterday’s strike poll taken by members of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) will give hoteliers the green light to take industrial action on hotel properties across New Providence, according to Darrin Woods, BHCAWU President.
Two hours after polls closed on Thursday evening, Woods confirmed to Eyewitness News Online that “Harborside employees casted 44 ‘yes’ votes which were in favor of strike action, 56 employees at Ocean Club voted ‘yes’ while one voted ‘no’, and employees at Melia, Lyford Cay, Towne Hotel and British Colonial Hotel casted 538 ‘yes’ votes and seven ‘no’ votes.”
“Atlantis is still being counted, but from what I can see so far, it seems as though the yes votes are far outweighing the no votes.”
Thousands of hotel employees made their way to the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) headquarters on Farrington Road to cast their ballots for the strike poll yesterday.
Hotel employees have been up in arms over a proposed industrial agreement presented to hotel workers last week for review.
Hotel workers labeled the proposed agreement a slap in the face, and promised to hold a strike vote to make their voices heard.
Yesterday, hoteliers lived up to that promise and began casting their votes at the two locations between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Hoteliers from Atlantis, Habourside and Ocean Club casted their votes at the National Stadium while employees from Melia, Lyford Cay, Towne Hotel and British Colonial Hilton voted at the BCPOU headquarters.
“For the Atlantis resort, those members would have voted on various issues relating to terms and conditions that would have been changed in the contract, shift changes and persons who would have been docked; but the main issue for the general populace would have been the contract,” Darren Woods, President, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU)said.
“Of course, you would have heard persons talking about gratuity changes and the elimination of distributing ham and turkey; but the full gambit of what hoteliers would have voted on today would have been the failure of management to engage in favorable negotiation with the union.”
At a union meeting held last week, BHCAWU members burned copies of the industry’s proposal, claiming that the terms were a slap in the face to the union.
Hoteliers who spoke with Eyewitness News Online Thursday said they are prepared to wage war against hotel management if their concerns have not been positively responded to.
“I have to take a stand for me and my fellow coworkers to let them [hotel management] know that this means war and we are here today to vote yes on all six ballots,” said Marjorie Demeritte, a Cove Atlantis employee.
“I participated in the vote today because Atlantis is not fair; we are working overboard to please the guests and right now management is not being fair to us. This is the worse I have seen the industry and I have been in the hotel industry for some 33 years,” said Deidre Williams, an Atlantis employee.
Hotel employees said casting their ballots in yesterday’s strike vote is an action to not only protect their current interests, but to also ensure that working conditions are fair and conducive for future hoteliers who enter the industry.
“I am here standing for the generation to come and what we are fighting for us not only for us but it is also for those who are coming behind us who want to be in this industry,” said Ulaine Barnett, an employee at the Reef Atlantis.
Tourism minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told media this week that a strike by hotel workers could prove devastating to the country’s tourism product.
He said the tourism industry accounts for some 55 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); and a halt in services could cripple the industry which has been performing above average since the start of the year.
Meantime, labour minister Dion Foulkes remains hopeful that both sides will be able to reach an amicable agreement to prevent strike action.