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Gaming Union to hold strike vote today
Publication The Freeport News
Date December 06, 2002
Section(s) National News
Dennis Britton - President - BGAWU


Senior Freeport News Reporter

The Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union will participate in a strike vote today and has warned that it will take action against one of Grand Bahama's struggling resorts.

Members of the union held a press conference yesterday at Worker's House to apprise the media and general public about the status of the negotiations between the Royal Oasis Resort and the Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union.

President of the Union, Dennis Britton announced that the members will hold a strike vote today at Worker's House, since discussions with management seem fruitless and they already received the approval from the minister earlier this week.

"It is our last resort," Britton explained. "The union's point of view is that we have exhausted every avenue of our plight and we have not received a response from the hotel or from the Government as yet."

The union was formed as an association in 2000 and received a determination from the Minister of Labour in June 2002 but according to Britton, negotiations between the union and the resort have made no progress and, at present, are stalled.

"The union has been in several meetings with the management team of the Royal Oasis but has not made much progress as the hotel continues to challenge the Minister of Labour and Immigration's determination for the union to be the bargaining representative for all non-managerial employees of the hotel," Britton explained.

He then stated that management initially met with the union on a monthly basis, but this is not the case anymore, noting that the last meeting with management was some five weeks ago.

He also claimed that management of the resort seems to have a "problem" defining the category or term "management" as presented in a list provided for them as Schedule A, which included such departments as secretaries, rating clerks, cashiers and slot attendants.

"Again I ask the question, "Does the Royal Oasis management team respect the laws and statutes of The Bahamas?" he asked.

The union president pointed out that the union has filed several disputes against the resort, citing unfair treatment of its members, specifically in regard to fundamental benefits that the employees of The Royal Oasis have enjoyed for many years, even without an industrial agreement.

He further noted that staff was not told until two days before payment was due that the payment of Christmas bonus has changed.

"The Royal Oasis has changed the arrangement of the payment of Christmas bonuses without the consent of the employees," he said, explaining that all employees are paid two weeks basic pay on the second week of December.

"To make matters worse," he continued, "the hotel paid all the members of The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union their Christmas bonus, but did not pay the rest of the employees, specifying that they were not obligated to us.

"Instead, they instituted a payment scheme of a four per cent increase in salary, which will not cover the amount owed employees for last year's Christmas bonus," he said.

The president noted that many employees depend on the bonus, especially as it comes near the Christmas holiday, adding that if the resort can find the money to pay the members of one union, they should be able to do it for the staff of the entire hotel, noting that the Gaming Union represents only a small minority on the property.

"It was slow last year because of September 11," he further explained. "So they (the staff) were really, more or less, depending on it to purchase gifts and they (management) just up and told us that we're not getting it."

Britton further explained that the four per cent increase is now being provided for a six-day work week but noted that the staff are only working three to four days a week.

"The members of the union want their entitlement of Christmas bonus intact," he demanded, "and on the second week of December just as The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union members."

Britton, discussing other charges against the resort, went on to say that the Royal Oasis has also failed to implement retroactive pay for Gaming Union members who are owed salary increases or incremental raises on their anniversary as is the custom or arrangement.

He further charged that the Resort has demonstrated discriminatory practices by excluding the dealers/croupiers from the list of employees who can clean their uniforms free of charge with a local dry cleaner, as was also the custom enjoyed by the dealing staff prior to a list given to the cleaners by the hotel.

"All of these events clearly indicate to the union that the management of The Royal Oasis is not negotiating in good faith as required by the Industrial Relations Act of The Bahamas," Britton stated. "They continue to delay the negotiation process by infringing on the benefits and entitlements enjoyed by members of the union for numerous years and their disrespect for the industrial laws and statutes of The Bahamas."

He further charged that inadequacy of information and communication between management and The Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union is causing serious tension amongst the employees of the hotel.

"There seems to be widening uncertainty about the state of affairs at the Royal Oasis as no dialogue and only rumours abound," Britton explained, noting that management, despite having knowledge of the Minister's determination on the union, claims that they do not have to inform them of the resort's issues since there is no recognition agreement between the two.

He noted that the union's main objective is to protect the existing rights of members in a contract and to ensure that all employees are treated fairly at the Royal Oasis Resort and Casino.

"We are, again, requesting the Minister of Labour and Immigration, the Honourable Vincent Peet, to intervene and cause equality in the workplace," he said.

The Freeport News contacted management of Royal Oasis and spoke with Senior Vice-president of the Resort, Donald Archer, who noted that no discriminatory practices had taken place and did not comment on negotiations between the resort and the Gaming Union, saying that they are ongoing.

"We are currently under negotiations and I don't think it is fair to discuss it in the press," he said.

The Senior Vice-president acknowledged that Christmas bonus will be paid to the members of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, noting that such is in accordance with an agreement between the resort and the union.

Archer further explained that any other Christmas bonus is discretionary.

"We haven't decided yet on what we're going to do about Christmas bonus," he said. "We haven't decided on what our position is going to be regarding Christmas bonuses this year."



© 2002 The Freeport News
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Union gets okay to strike
Publication The Freeport News
Date December 09, 2002
Section(s) National News


Senior Freeport News Reporter

Members of a local union have given the 'go ahead' for a strike against a local resort following a strike vote on Friday.

One hundred and three of the 119 members of The Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union showed up at Workers House on Friday to cast their ballots in a strike vote against the resort.

Union president Dennis Britton, during a press conference on Thursday, announced that the members will participate in the vote since they had already filed several disputes against their employer, The Royal Oasis, and gotten no response from management or the respective Government authorities.

"We hope that it (the results of the vote) would cause the Minister of Labour to look into our situation more closely," Britton told The Freeport News after the election on Friday, "and to cause the negotiation process between us and the hotel to start again, and that management at the Royal Oasis would not infringe on our benefits any more and just give us what is due us."

During the press conference, Britton charged that negotiations between the union and management of the Royal Oasis had stalled, but Senior Vice- President of the resort, Donald Archer, said negotiations were ongoing but he would not want to discuss the matter in the press.

Britton, on Friday, said he has not communicated with management since he and the other members called their last press conference on Thursday of last week and remains uncertain as to what is going to happen for Christmas.

He earlier charged that the resort is only giving the Christmas bonus to members of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, and instead, is offering them a four per cent pay increase which does not amount to the bonus.

Archer explained that the Christmas bonus is being extended to the Hotel Union members because of an agreement between management and that particular union but that management had not yet decided what will be done for Christmas.

The union president also told This Daily on Friday that morale is at an all time low among union members and he described it as non existent on the job.

Britton said he was satisfied with the amount of union members who turned out to participate in the elections.

"The turnout was excellent," he commented. "That (the turnout) shows that what we've been saying is true and that everyone is upset with the way things are going at work with us not being able to get any information from work about the situation of the hotel."

With regard to the situation at the hotel, Britton again explained that the resort is not updating the union with regard to the operational situation at the hotel.

"Everything is just rumours," he added. "We want concrete information or some type of communication. We used to have it and then it just stopped all of a sudden."

Britton is calling for management to resume negotiations, afford the union members all of the previous benefits, including Christmas bonus and laundry assistance and is calling on the Minister of Labour and Immigration, Vincent Peet to look into the matter.


© 2002 The Freeport News
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[an error occurred while processing this directive]Thursday, 22-Aug-2019 05:21:36 EDT

Local/National News

Closed Royal Oasis casino, reopens


Senior Freeport News Reporter

Royal Oasis Casino employees will learn this afternoon the outcome of talks between union executives, gaming board and Government officials set to get under way this morning.

This after the casino was reportedly closed by management for the better part of the day yesterday and casino employees reporting for morning duty were denied access to the premises.

A notice of the closure was also posted on the door of the casino.

The move is believed to be as a result of action reportedly taken by casino workers Saturday night.

However, The Freeport News was unable to confirm this up to press time.

Workers reporting as scheduled assembled outside the gate. Word of the unrest spread and, after visiting the site to get to the bottom of the situation, Marco City MP Pleasant Bridgewater also spoke with Royal Oasis Senior Vice-president Donald Archer.

She them met with casino employees.

"The company instituted a closure, as they called it, of the hotel," said The Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union (BGAWU) President Dennis Britton, in an interview with The Freeport News.

Britton said he was informed Sunday morning by coworkers who telephoned him to say they were not being allowed on property.

A majority of the workers showed up for work, he added, only to learn they were locked out.

A meet was scheduled that afternoon between resort management and union executives.

"We met and tried to bring resolve to the situation that was at hand why they locked us out and why they closed the casino down, " Britton said.

Britton noted that they would have met in any event, however, they decided to do so at an earlier time as they were already on the premises.

The meeting took place with senior management, including Archer and two others and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Ann Percentie.

Pending issues were discussed Britton disclosed.

An agreement was reached to open the casino and it is business as usual, he said.

However, the BGAWU president declined to make any further comments on the matter as he had to conduct a "further investigation."

Resort management, BGAWU executives, Gaming Board Chairman MP Kenyatta Gibson and Government officials are expected to take part in this morning's meeting.

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[an error occurred while processing this directive]Thursday, 22-Aug-2019 05:21:36 EDT

Local/National News

BGAWU claims Resort operations are 'perilous'


Senior Freeport News Reporter

A union is calling a local resort's operations "perilous" and its attitude "lackadaisical", as they again claim that management is stalling negotiations.

Members of The Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union called a press conference at Workers House yesterday morning regarding its negotiations with management at the Royal Oasis Casino, reporting that negotiations between the two have stalled as management continues to use "stalling tactics".

President of the union, Dennis Britton, after recalling the December 29, 2002 incident when the resort abruptly closed its casino and restaurant, charged that the reason it was reopened was because of a violation of The Bahamas Hotel Corporation and Gaming Board's laws and procedures, which were grossly ignored.

"The BGAWU was informed that the Royal Oasis did not receive the government's approval," he stated, adding that the union itself was also not aware of the momentary closure until the morning of the incident.

He further stated that, in a televised interview, Gaming Board executive Kenyatta Gibson indicated that there will be ramifications after an impending investigation.

Britton said while the country needs investors, as the economy is dependent upon the investors and tourism, it does not need investors who will disrespect and not adhere to the laws and statutes of the country.

"The Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union seeks to protect the rights of the Bahamian employees of the Royal Oasis and to negotiate an equitable contract for its members, similar to that of The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union," Britton charged.

As such, the union president said the union is asking that the rights of the employees at the casino are laid out in a written contract to prevent the Royal Oasis, or any other company, from infringing on their existing rights and privileges.

"Is this too much to ask for?" he questioned.

"Great Bahamians by the name of Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Randol Fawkes, Sir Clifford Darling, Willamae Bridgewater, and the list goes on and on, contributed immeasurably to the establishment and success of the labour movement in The Bahamas.

"Thus, it would be a tragedy to allow certain investors to come into The Bahamas and make a mockery of the Constitution of the Bahamian people and our laws."

He noted that the Gaming Union's responsibility not only concerns the welfare of its members, but also to future generations of Bahamian children.

Britton further charged that, in the union's opinion, the Royal Oasis continues to demonstrate a lackadaisical attitude to the tourism industry of Grand Bahama, stating that the union has been informed of several incidents of guests being denied services.

"Room service, insufficient restaurants or bars being opened to accommodate their needs, limited casino tables opened to entertain their playing requirements, and minimal staffing of the hotel to meet the demands of guests and tourists potentially or otherwise," he explained.

"As a result, they have promised never to return to Grand Bahama or The Bahamas due to the insufficient services provided by the hotel and the poor attitude and assistance of the management of the resort in abating the situation."

President Britton noted that management of the resort continues to understaff the resort and casino, but continually request the services of employees to accommodate guests on short notice. He further noted that the union has received information that many of the regular guests or customers of the Royal Oasis are relocating to other hotel properties abroad.

"The Royal Oasis continues to operate in a perilous manner in which the Bahamian employees, and indeed the Bahamian economy will continue to deteriorate," he stated.

The union executive is now calling on Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, and again on Minister of Labour and Immigration Vincent Peet, to intervene and "execute an enduring resolution before it's too late."

Britton noted that the cooling off period with regard to the union's right to strike has expired, however, he is hoping for a different resolution.

"We hope to come to an amicable conclusion or an agreement with management and not have to use it," Britton stated. "I'm hoping that the ministry will intervene and get us back to the table and cause an agreement to be reached."

He then reported that morale among employees at the casino continues to be very low, and work is described as "just work."

"They (employees) don't know what to expect the next day, what's going to happen, and so on," he explained. "Everything is still up in the air and this is supposed to be the season, yet the employees are still working three and four days a week."

While the president would not explain in detail which issues have caused negotiations to be stalled, he did say that the parties did reach several agreements, however, he claimed that management of the resort included new arrangements which they wanted implemented in the contract which was already agreed upon.

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BHCAWU gives resort ultimatum
Publication The Freeport News
Date March 21, 2003
Section(s) National News


Senior Freeport News Reporter

A union executive predicts "holy hell" for a local resort today as its members are scheduled to turn out in large numbers to protest employee treatment.

Members of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) and the Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union participated in a peaceful demonstration yesterday morning at Ranfurly Circus near the Royal Oasis Resort.

Many of the protesters, who held signs and chanted as they marched around the circle, called for the removal of resort president David Buddemeyer and the re-hiring of their terminated comrades.

BHCAWU Second Vice-President Lloyd Cooper explained that the members are staging the first in a series of demonstrations against the resort to send a message.

He said the members are protesting peacefully, notwithstanding the long wait for the resort to "correct the wrongs" they have done with regard to the firings.

Cooper said, in the wake of the firings and suspensions, the resort terminated employees who have worked there for more than 30 years.

"We have been trying a long time to get the company to reconsider what they have done," he said. "I met, this morning, at the Labor Board with Mary Culmer and I gave her 48 hours to return four workers back to work.

Cooper said the workers to whom he is referring have not been suspended, but fired, and for no just reason. He promised that today, hundreds of the resort's employees will join the protest.

"We're only doing this as a calm before the storm," Cooper said, "and this is no threat.

"We have to close Buddemeyer down if only for a day."

Cooper charged that while Driftwood management continues to terminate the workers in Grand Bahama and withhold union and credit union dues, it is spending some $4.1 million dollars to renovate the Holiday Inn Sunpree in New Providence.

"While we want the investor to do that, what good is it to invest and our people don't have any job security. It just doesn't make any sense."

Cooper said the Royal Oasis employees are working under uncertainties, which is something the union needs to address forthwith.

"And I'm prepared to do just that," he said. "Tomorrow (today), from 10 am, the heat will really be turned on. and after that, sleep with one eye open, because, trust me, we have to close this man down if only for a day."

Cooper said Buddemeyer's actions show no respect for the Bahamian people or their Government, adding that with a signed agreement in place, people should not be terminated without just cause.

Cooper said returning the workers to their jobs would be a start for the hotel to prove its readiness to show its good fate.

Cooper gave an example of an employee who turned in $1,200 he found, but was later terminated for not being able to account for .75 cents.

"I am saying that the punishment doesn't fit the crime," Cooper said. "They didn't suspend this man as per our agreement."

Cooper said the total disregard management of the resort shows for the terms of the agreement suggests that the agreement be nullified.

"We might as well tear up the agreement, or burn it up and leave it alone, because we are the only ones living by the agreement, although all of us signed it."

Cooper said the union is looking for cooperation, not confrontation, but the resort asked for it, therefore it will be given to them.

Cooper also took exception to the Royal Oasis Casino, where he charged that ex-patriate pit bosses are working while Bahamians are on the street.

"This is wrong!" he exclaimed, "We have been good for too long, and I think it comes a time when we have to do what we have to do."

Cooper said whenever the situation gets to a point where Bahamians cannot support their families because of ex-patriots, they should not be here.

An employee on the picket-line said he was suspended without a cause, adding that he believes the problem is that he was working there for too long.

"I've been there since 1965," he said. "They can't find a reason to fire me, so they just put me on suspension and I haven't worked for about three weeks."

Cooper noted that the man is also a union shop steward, and the agreement calls for a union representative to be present whenever action is taken against a shop steward, but this was not done.

President of the Bahamas Gaming and Allied Workers Union, Dennis Britton, said members of the gaming union are participating in the demonstration to show their solidarity with members of the hotel union.

He too said yesterday's demonstration was the calm before the storm, and called on the Government to know that both unions are prepared to go as far as they have to in efforts to achieve justice in the workplace.

Britton said since the resort is not adhering the principles of its agreement with the hotel union, it leaves executives of his union to question if the resort will respect an agreement it reaches should the two ever finalise the laborious negotiation process they remain in since the union's inception.

Britton said both unions are fully aware of the economic climate and the turn of events in the Middle East, however, he feels they are facing a war here in Grand Bahama, noting that about seven casino employees have either been terminated or released from their duties unjustifiably.

He said present labour laws do not protect the Bahamian people, explaining that the system is set up where negotiations are conducted, supposedly in good fate, with representatives who can make decisions.

"Yet, the companies continue to renege on this arrangement," Britton said. "The law states that we are supposed to meet, try to conciliate before it goes to arbitration, but nothing happens.

"The system is set up where the workers or the union will probably lose a lot of money before a case is even brought before the Industrial Tribunal."

He added that it is not uncommon for cases referred to the Tribunal to take years.

"It's time for that system to change," he said. "The workers are not protected by our labour laws."


© 2002 The Freeport News