NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) has scheduled a strike poll for today, the Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) expressed on Wednesday that the government is not taking the issues of the union seriously, nor is it moving aggressively to have both parties settle their concerns.
“It should not have come to this point where the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union feel that they need to take a strike vote in order to get a just result in their contract negotiations,” said PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell, who also serves the Opposition’s shadow minister of labour.
“It appears to us, given the history of the contract and the background of the lack of a livable wage in many sectors in The Bahamas, that the 15 percent gratuity is a sine qua non in the contract talks.”
The hotel union has four main items of concern: the elimination of the 15 per cent gratuity, the elimination of a ham and turkey, the payment of the Christmas bonus in January instead of December and the Christmas bonus being based on the profitability of the hotel.
Minister of Tourism, Dionisio D’Aguilar, told reporters on Tuesday that a union strike at this present time would be ‘devastating’ for the tourism industry as 55 percent of the country’s economy is based on tourism.
He also called for calmer heads to prevail during the negotiation process.
“With the coming on stream of Baha Mar and with the growth of the other hotels, five to six thousand additional workers have entered into the tourism market and are benefitting from the tourism market so we have to be very, very careful,” D’Aguilar warned.
Labour Minister Dion Foulkes also told reporters on Tuesday that the government is very concerned about the current situation between the hotel union and the Hotel Employers Association.
He revealed that thus far, a meeting has been held at the Department of Labour and a senior deputy director at the Department of Labour is conciliating talks.
Meanwhile, the PLP chairman said the union has also complained that there are a number of issues which signal a lack of respect for workers that the Government needs to take seriously.
Mitchell therefore called on the Minister of Labour to do more than ‘talk’ but seek to settle.
“We call on employers to understand the plight of workers. We believe that nothing should be done by either party to damage the greater interests of The Bahamas,” the PLP chairman said.
The BHCAWU strike poll will begin today at 8:00 a.m.
Atlantis, Ocean Club and Harbourside are expected to vote at the National Stadium while Towne Hotel, the British Colonial Hilton, Melia and Lyford Cay will vote at the BCPOU Hall on Farrington Road between the hours of 8a.m. and 6p.m.