Morton Salt union says ‘no slowdown’

THE union representing Morton Salt Bahamas line-staff yesterday rejected suggestions it had instigated a worker “slowdown” after the company issued warning letters to three of its employees.

Letters seen by Tribune Business, dated February 5, 2019, and signed by Michael Nixon, the Inagua salt harvester’s general manager, warned two workers that the company had “sufficient evidence” to prove they were “refusing to work diligently towards the efficient and economic operation of the company during their shifts on February 4 and 5”.

Morton Salt asserted that their actions were in violation of the union’s industrial agreement, and warned that failure to comply with company policy going forward would result in disciplinary actions “up to and including termination”.

Jennifer Brown, the Bahamas Industrial, Manufacturers and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) president, told Tribune Business that a third employee had received a similar warning letter yesterday.

She acknowledged that she had seen social media reports suggesting that workers were engaged in a deliberate “slow down”, but strongly denied this claim. She told Tribune Business that workers have expressed safety concerns and any action was merely precautionary.

“Equipment needs to be fixed, trucks need to be fixed, the road to the crystalisers needs to be fixed, and the guys say they are not going to work like that any more,” Ms Brown said. “The employees are taking caution, and the company has an issue with that.

“We have two ships at the dock now, and the company is accusing them of deliberately slowing down. They gave some persons letters of warning. Persons have been putting stuff on social media about what’s going on, but I can say that there is no deliberate work stoppage or slowdown, not to my knowledge. That is not what’s happening.”

She added: “There are a lot of safety concerns and they know about it. They want the guys to go out in the trucks to deal with these boats but they know the concerns.”

Morton Salt, in a statement sent to Tribune Business yesterday, said: “At Morton, the safety and security of our employees is of the utmost importance. Earlier this week, we were contacted by union representatives who provided our team with a list of facility and equipment repairs to address.

“Nearly all of the items shared were already being proactively addressed and resolved by our maintenance and health and safety teams as part of our standard operating procedures and processes. We will continue to assess, address and resolve the remaining items in a timely manner to ensure we continue to safely meet our production goals.”

The union has in recent months gone public over its dispute with Morton Salt regarding a new industrial agreement. Ms Brown recently told this newspaper that the union, which represents some 100-line staff at Inagua’s largest employer, had been been “pushed” to take strike action after the company made no improvements to its purported counter-offer. The threat of industrial unrest has loomed over Morton Salt’s Inagua operations since late last year.

Morton Salt said yesterday: “For the past year, Morton Bahamas has met in good faith with union representatives in an effort to reach a new labour agreement. We’ve also worked together with a conciliator to help drive toward resolution. Unfortunately, the parties have not yet reached an agreement. Until then, we encourage our employees to continue working safely and diligently during ongoing contract negotiations.”