By PATRICK McGREGOR
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.