NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas Hotel Catering & Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) “didn’t do itself any favours’ by staging a protest at the Atlantis resort on Thanksgiving, according to a private sector representative.
Peter Goudie, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s director responsible for union relations, called the action “insensitive” in an interview with Eyewitness News Online.
“We are trying to build back our tourism image because there are so many people that think the Bahamas was completely destroyed by Hurricane Dorian,” said Goudie, a National Tripartite Council member.
“We need every tourist dollar we can get now and for the union to set up protest I just thought it was not appropriate. If they want to protest they can, they have every right to do what they want to do but why on Thanksgiving weekend, one of the busiest weekends in the year. I just find it insensitive.
Goudie continued: “We have people here hungry and starving because of Dorian and they want to do out and discourage tourists. They set up a timeline of four months. I didn’t know they dictated to companies how long they were going to negotiate.
“I kind of find that very inappropriate. This is a very sensitive time. They didn’t do themselves any favours.”
Last week, BHCAWU president Darrin Woods said the union’s primary goal is to secure a “registered” industrial agreement for its membership, but other key issues include: the recent shift change at the Four Seasons Ocean Club; outsourcing in laundry areas at Atlantis resort; and recent terminations.
Woods told Eyewitness News Online the demonstration signaled looming industrial action as workers were frustrated with the Bahamas Hotel and Restaurant Employers Association’s (BHREA) ineffective posturing on labor issues.
In a press release, Audrey Oswell, president and managing director at Atlantis said: “We have been fully engaged in positive negotiations with the union regarding a new labour contract with our employees. We were surprised that the union decided to pursue labour action on Thursday instead of meeting with us to make progress on the agreement.
Oswell continued: “The day of the labour activity, Russell Miller chairman of the BHREA was scheduled to meet with Darren Woods to sign off on 36 of 48 sections fo the industrial agreement that have been mutually agreed upon by the union and the BHREA. This labour action was particularly peculiar given that we waited more than six years for the union to present their proposal.
“In addition to being unlawful, we do not believe that the labour action was justified or productive for the resort or our colleagues and our shared goal of a signed agreement.”
Oswell said: “We are committed to negotiating with the union for seven days a week until the full agreement is signed. We want to move immediately to what matters most to our team members- increasing their paychecks- as we head into the holidays season.”
Last week, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar warned the country’s tourism sector is at a ‘very sensitive stage’ as he chastised hotel workers over an ill-timed protest at the Atlantis resort.
D’Aguilar stressed the industry can afford no further shocks post-Dorian, adding he was ‘extremely disappointed’ the hotel union opted to picket during one of the busiest periods.