More than 40 workers at the plush Apes Hill Club are off the job indefinitely, with the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) threatening to further flex its muscles unless management meets with its representatives to discuss equipment, pay and other issues affecting conditions of work.
Insisting that there was also need for mutual respect, Dwaine Paul, the acting Deputy General Secretary of the BWU, explained that the union had been trying unsuccessfully on its own and through the office of the Chief Labour Officer to meet with management of the luxury facility to discuss issues that have been lingering for the past nine years.
Paul told Barbados TODAY that Chief Executive Officer Donavan Bagwel and his management team had been adamant that the union conducts a recognition survey on the advice of the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC).
However, Paul said even though the union complied with that request, and also received assistance from the Labour Department in doing so, management of Apes Hill has been refusing to recognize the BWU as the workers’ bargaining agent. He noted that in the past recognition had not been an issue between the union and the company, which operates a golf course and upscale villas, but “all of a sudden”, the BWU official said, they “don’t recognize the workers’ representative”.
In a show of disgust over the situation, today, some 40 workers, comprising mainly maintenance staff, downed tools in protest, but were ordered off the compound and the police summoned.
Up to this evening, the union was unable to get a response from the company, but Paul said he would keep trying to reach management over the weekend, failing which he would be informing his Executive Council of the situation and recommend that it approves an escalation of industrial action by calling out other divisions of the BWU in support of the Apes Hill workers.
“I can’t tell you if we will be talking this [threat] two weeks from now. The company has over the weekend. It will be entertaining and having these major tournaments with persons coming in and out and those persons that are going to be paying to use the facilities, and your staff that is supposed to be looking after [the arrangements] . . . you have turned a blind eye to, you are not listening to them and you are not willing to work with them,” Paul said. Pressed on the possible escalation of industrial action, he said: “I can’t tell you it would be two weeks, I can’t tell you it would be 10 days and even tell you it would be three days.
“What I can tell you we haven’t heard anything today [and] we would like to resolve this matter through dialogue; therefore we are not averse to having a meeting, we are amenable to having discussions, so that we can move the matter forward.
“This does not have to reach the stage where we have an industrial dispute,” the BWU spokesman said.
He said the union was willing to talk at any level, including resuming their negotiations before the Chief Labour Officer.
However, Paul has made it clear he did not plan to wait much longer to hear from management considering that time was of the essence.
“If I can’t get a response, if I don’t hear from them, I would be going [to the Executive Council which normally meets Wednesdays] to make recommendations that we escalate,” he warned.