Hotel union aims to close ‘four of five’ this summer


Darrin Woods


Tribune Business Editor

The hotel union’s president yesterday said it is targeting “by summer’s end” to conclude negotiations on at least four of five outstanding industrial agreements in a bid to ease “tremendous pressure” on workers.

Darrin Woods, the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union’s (BHCAWU) chief, told Tribune Business that apart from the deal with some of The Bahamas’ major resort employers it is also seeking to complete a series of agreements with smaller properties and hotels in an effort to alleviate some of the inflationary pressures on his members.

The other industrial talks are being held with three separate restaurants, he added, namely Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC or Restaurants Bahamas), Graycliff and the Poop Deck. And discussions are also taking place on behalf of BHCAWU members with the Harborside and Best Western properties, as the union seeks salary and benefit adjustments that can at least partially offset the cost of living crisis.

“It’s putting them under tremendous pressure,” Mr Woods told this newspaper of heightened inflation. “You look at the price of gas. We saw Esso has decided to pay attention to people rather than profit to quote them. It’s significant when you’re talking about paying in excess of $6 per gallon for gas. That’s unheard of in Nassau.”

Vasco Bastian, an Esso dealer and vice-president of the Bahamas Petroleum Retailers Association, yesterday conceded that the wholesaler had decided to cut the $7.39 per gallon it was charging at all its stations to a level in line with rivals, Rubis and Shell, because it had seen a 50 percent sales slump through motorists switching to competitors who - at the time - were $1 cheaper.

Meanwhile, Mr Woods added: “People are really trying to tighten their belts as best they can to cope with the high cost of inflation. When you look at it, everything around them is going up with the exception of their salaries and that’s definitely a concern for them. They can only do so much, and sometimes their salary comes out before they get home. 

“You have to put gas in your car to get to work and get paid. You are spending funds you have not yet earned. We have to find a solution. It is difficult having to tighten their belts and having to choose between this and that. They have to look at immediate needs as opposed to long-term, and spending between each point to get where they need to go without falling off or finding yourself in hard times.”

Mr Woods said the hotel union was seeking to do its part by closing the outstanding industrial agreements on terms that will help, and be acceptable to, its membership. “We have five outstanding contracts we are trying to close now to bring some relief to our members,” he added. “Most of them would have been concluded if not for COVID. We’ve been locked down in various negotiations for the past three to four months.

“We have three restaurants and then some smaller hotels. They are KFC, Graycliff and the Poop Deck. Those are the three. The others are two small hotels, Harborside and Best Western. All of those have been outstanding for quite a while. We’re trying to bring them to a conclusion. One of them is 95 percent or so complete, the others we have submitted the best recommendation we have. We’re back on track with those.”

Mr Woods estimated that four of the five industrial agreements could be completed “by the end of summer”, especially for the restaurants and small hotels. He declined to identify which one was “95 percent complete”, or speak to the major one with the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association (BHEA) and its member properties, including Atlantis, because he had given an undertaking not to speak publicly until the talks finished.

However, the union chief indicated that only financial terms have to be agreed with the BHEA and its members. He hinted that this negotiation would likely take longer than the others because of the multiple hotel properties involved and the need for all to be satisfied with what is agreed.

Pledging that the union was pressing to close these industrial agreements “ASAP”, Mr Woods added: “It is important to try and bring some relief and ease some of the pressure physically and mentally. Whenever you are stressed, and don’t know where the extra dollar is coming from, it puts a lot of pressure on your psyche.”