Monday, January 16, 2012

If workers are serious about their employment, they will think twice before being led astray by union leaders ...some of whom seem to have politics on their minds rather than the interest of the men and women whose best interests they claim to represent


tribune242 editorial

LOOKING over The Tribune's Labour files a few days ago we came across an interesting statement by hotel managerial union leader Obie Ferguson, who accused Freeport's Our Lucaya Beach resort of "union busting" by planning to lay off 50 managerial staff.

"Now the economy is showing signs of recovery," he told The Tribune, "I thought that now would be the time to do what should be done. Workers' rights are as important as profits. We will take the necessary poll and then do what we have to do."

Mr Ferguson made this statement in January last year at a time when in the estimation of every business person on the island - especially in Freeport -- the economy was looking even bleaker. And so we do not know how Mr Ferguson measures economic recovery. Maybe he had a glimpse of the hotel's financial statements and from that concluded that the hotel could support what he claimed "had to be done" and still keep its doors open.

At the time, Mr Ferguson was pressing Minister Dion Foulkes for permission for his union, which he said represented more than 100 of the resort's staff, to take a strike vote that would pave the way for disruptive action at the property.

Meanwhile, Nicole Martin, whose union represented the same hotel's line staff, was worried about increases she said were owed to the line staff under their industrial agreement. Earlier, the resort had announced that its Christmas season was not as good as hoped. It had told the union that since 2009 it was not in a financial position to meet those demands.

Earlier, it was acknowledged that the resort's owners, Hutchinson-Whampoa, had been subsidising the hotel's payroll. Prime Minister Ingraham had even praised the company for its supportive attitude towards the hotel and its staff during difficult financial times.

But Mr Ferguson must have had a vision. He saw things differently and thought it was time for some union muscle flexing.

When we read his statement, we could not help but think of the six blind men of Indostan who went to see an elephant. Although blind, and having to rely on touch alone, each had to "satisfy his mind" as to what an elephant looked like.

The first fell against the broad sturdy side of the elephant and decided it "is very like a wall." The second felt the tusk and decided it was like a "spear." And so on down the line -- the squirming trunk felt like a snake; the knee felt like a tree; the ear felt like a fan and the sixth was convinced that the swinging tail was "very like a rope".

And so the dispute began, each convinced as to what an elephant looked like and "though each was partly in the right... all were in the wrong!"

As none of them had seen the whole elephant, despite their arguing none of them knew what an elephant really looked like.

And so with these unionists, who although they never see the whole picture and do not know what obligations have to be met before salary increases can be considered, are always convinced that owners can and should meet their demands.

At present, Kerzner International is fighting to meet its financial obligations. It has a good management team that will do everything in its power to maintain staff levels and also meet its debts. Those debt obligations are extremely high. If they are not met, unless some agreement can be arrived at, the Kerzner team could lose its four-year management contract. And so, staff will have to be thankful for their jobs, and turn deaf ears to any demands that their union might tempt them to take during this difficult period. Even if they see every rooms filled to capacity every day of the year, unions nor staff can assume -- like the six blind men of Indostan -- that the hotel is making a handsome profit, and that there is any room for staff to make more.

We do not understand some of these union leaders. They complain that Freeport has no business and yet when organisations are trying to attract business, the union decides to demonstrate. For example, what possessed Freeport hotel workers to demonstrate at Grand Lucaya resort on the very day Vision Airlines and the Ministry of Tourism were hosting 80 travel agents and other tourism promoters from the United States? The visitors were invited there for a two-day familiarization trip in the hopes that they would recommend more visitors to fill the hotel. Imagine the very people who would benefit from a hotel full of guests, would decide instead to drive potential business away by demonstrations. Who can have sympathy for such short-sighted people?

And to add insult to injury their union leader had the nerve to pull another demonstration to complain that the 37 workers who scuttled an attempt to get more business for the hotel were fired.
Just where are these people coming from? From an outsider looking in, it seems that some unionists have a different agenda. Are they deliberately leading their members astray?

Who is going to sympathise with any worker who is going to undermine the efforts of people who are trying to bring more business to a resort to secure their jobs?

If workers are serious about their employment, they will think twice before being led astray by union leaders some of whom seem to have politics on their minds rather than the interest of the men and women whose best interests they claim to represent.

January 16, 2012

tribune242 editorial