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Union Leaders At Odds


A union leader’s complaint that the hundreds of jobs set to come on stream in Grand Bahama could negatively affect the quality of employment has ruffled the feathers of another trade unionist.

Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Nicole Martin has criticised elements of the government’s partnership with Hutchinson Whampoa Limited – Grand Bahama’s largest resort owner and Sunwing Travel Group, one of the largest travel conglomerates in Canada.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced plans to revitalise and reopen the Our Lucaya Reef Village Resort in Grand Bahama – a move he said would lead to 1,000 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs.

Struggling, out-of-work Grand Bahamians welcomed the news. But Ms. Martin claims Hutchinson is only looking to hire part-time workers. She also criticised the government for not consulting her union during the process.

But, during a news conference at the House of Labour yesterday Bahamas Hotel and Managerial Association President Obie Ferguson said the government should be given credit for at least attempting to provide jobs for Grand Bahamians.

Mr. Ferguson’s association represents the managerial workers at the hotel.

“We see it as a positive move. One thousand workers would be employed, so the government ought to be given credit, in my view, to take 1,000 people off the streets in Grand Bahama,” he said.

“They had indicated to me that they were doing that. I am pleased and I am certain that they will be governed by the rules and regulations of The Bahamas and any existing agreement that is in place that is legally binding I’m certain that it is good; it is a good sign. I want thousands more to be bouncing over the place. So, I have nothing negative to say about that because it’s employment and Bahamians need to be employed.”

Mr. Ferguson said he will work with the government and any government for that matter to get Bahamians employed.

“I think it’s a good move and the prime minister and his government should be commended for [the fact] that within five months they could find 1,000 jobs and have some spinoff – local products, electricity, water, light, those things are not just for the 1000 [workers] it’s for a number of things,” he said.

“The hotel met with the union and they explained to managerial union executives what they intended to do, so we were informed of it by the hotel and we have a contract with the hotel. Therefore that is where we go for information on any development that is going to add in one way or the other, any layoffs, suspensions they come to us and they tell us, so we were informed by the members.”

“Bahamians want jobs. Freeport is in a depressed state right now and while it may not be exactly what you want, it’s better than [having nothing]; you have insurance, you get your holidays as a matter of fact, it’s in the interest of Grand Bahama and The Bahamas that we begin to look at development and employ these people. They’re not employed. They’re coming to your house and my house. Trade union leaders would sit down and negotiate deals; we’d cut deals if an economic situation comes you’ve got to find a way to deal with it. You can’t say ‘I’m not going to do anything, my contract says so and so.’ These people need to work, they are losing their homes. People’s electricity bills are sky high. Another guy said his electricity was off from three years.”

There are 115 members in the Bahamas Hotel and Managerial Association.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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