Foulkes says both sides have decided to “stand down” until talks are held
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the 15-day period to reach a happy medium in the negotiation process has now expired, executives at the Inagua-based Morton Salt Company Limited and members of the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) are still at an impasse.
Both parties, however, are hoping to set a meeting date in an effort for negotiations to move forward, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes confirmed on Thursday.
“I am in discussions with both the management [at Morton Salt] and the union. I spoke to Mr. Obie Ferguson today, the lead negotiator for the union, and I have also spoken to Mr. Scotty Nixon, the general manager of the plant in Inagua, and I have proposed a date for us to have a meeting here in Nassau.
“I am awaiting a response from both sides to confirm that date,” Foulkes told Eyewitness News Online in a telephone interview.
Last month, Morton Salt Company Limited threatened to lock employees out of the plant if a “happy medium” of negotiations was not achieved within 15 days.
The union, on the other hand, is still in possession of a strike certificate that they have threatened on more than one occasion to use.
But yesterday, Foulkes said both sides have made the decision to “stand down” on any potential action until talks are held face-to face.
“I encourage both sides to come up with an arrangement that both sides can be comfortable with and I am hopeful that after our meeting, that this would take place, but I don’t want to say exactly when [the meeting will be held], but hopefully soon I will get a response from both sides.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Brown, president of the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) told Eyewitness News on Thursday that she received a personal call from Mr. Foulkes who had expressed that he would arrange a meeting with Morton Salt executives, but she expressed that the union was still waiting on a date.
“Everyone is working as usual and we are just waiting for a meeting. There are no negotiations as yet, so we await a meeting with the minister. I am aware that the minister has contacted the company and they have agreed that they will not take any action and we will not take any action until we have had a meeting, but the meeting is long in coming, and that is where we are at right now,” Brown said.
Since last year, the BIMAWU has been negotiating for an increase in salary in its new industrial agreement, and despite having a strike certificate in its possession, the Morton Salt company has not budged in offering an increase of more than 1.5 percent in its counter-proposal – a move the union has referred to on more than one occasion as a ‘slap in the face’.
The Union is seeking an increase between four and eight percent, but Morton Salt expressed in a letter issued to the union last month that a 1.5 percent increase in pay represents the company’s best and final offer and they were not in a position to make a further offer.