Unionized Morton Salt employees considering strike action

Jennifer Brown, president of the Bahamas Industrial and Manufactures Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU).

Union still unhappy with company’s latest proposal

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas Industrial Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU), who represent unionized employees at the Inagua-based Morton Bahamas Salt Company, are hoping to use the strike certificate that they were issued last November by the Ministry of Labour.

The move comes after Morton Bahamas released a proposal on Wednesday, in response to various amendments that the union had requested in its industrial agreement.

But having reviewed that proposal yesterday, president of the BIMAWU, Jennifer Brown, told Eyewitness News Online that the union is not pleased and strike action could be imminent.

Last November, unionized Morton Salt employees held a strike vote in Matthew Town, Inagua, and voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike.

The vote was taken after the company’s reported failure to formalize a new industrial agreement and a final wage package, which the union head described as “insulting”.

After on-going negotiations last year, the company gave the union a final offer of 1.5 per cent increase in salary. However, this amount did not change for 2019, as outlined in yesterday’s proposal.

“I think they sent us the wrong contract because these are the same figures that they gave us when we were here last,” Brown said.

The portion of the proposal which focuses on wage rate scales and classifications, outlines a final wage adjustment package of 1.5 per cent for March, 2018; 1.5 per cent in March 2019; 1.7 per cent in March 2020 and 1.9 per cent in March 2021.

But according to Brown, these are the same figures that the company presented to the union, with the exception of adding a new ‘leg’ in 2021 of 1.9 per cent.

Commenting on the wage rate scales, Brown said, “we met and we exceeded the budget. They wanted us to go back to the table to negotiate and they are not even offering the inflation rate, which is 3.4 per cent. At least that will be a starting point.

“We can’t even go to the [negotiation] table and argue this. What are they [the company] going to say?

“How can they [Morton Salt] justify this?”

According to Brown, a 1.5 per cent increase for some persons, only marks a 21-cent increase in their pay cheque.

Brown said the unionized labourers at Morton Salt are seeking 3.4 per cent or more, as the labourers are the ones who contribute to making up the company’s budget, and not the managerial staff.

“But the managerial staff are the ones who get all the benefit; all, we got nothing,” Brown claimed.

The Morton Salt union head said she is not satisfied with any of the terms outlined in yesterday’s issued proposal.

She said the insurance contribution has doubled, yet wages remain the same.

“If you pay 30 [for insurance] it’s now 60, if you pay 45 it’s is now 85. Everything has gone up,” she said.

As for the production bonus for employees, Brown said while employees met their production last year, the company reportedly did not pay out the amount that employees expected, because it was based on the terms of the old contract.

“We have the new figures here on the table and those could be considered, that’s the only thing, but even with that, it does not balance out,” Brown said.

As it now stands, Brown said the union has no other choice but to use their issued strike certificate.

“We were trying to hold out,” she said.

“We are not unreasonable people.

“We had the certificate in our hands for quite a while now and they want to throw this in our face.

“They have taken action and now we will do what we have to do.”

Brown said the union will be returning to Inagua next week to address the contents of yesterday’s proposal.

She said while there is no date for a strike, the union will definitely take action.