Hotel Union "In Reverse" - Says Former VP
The weather is rough and the hotel union needs a strong captain, according to its former Vice President Alexander Thompson.
In an interview with the Bahama Journal Tuesday, he said if former union President Thomas Bastian were still in charge, the present contract negotiations with the Hotel Employers Association would have ended long ago.
Mr. Thompson, 66, who served as vice president of the union for 12 years, said his former colleague, Mr. Bain, is a "good person", but a "weak leader."
"The president can not be hot and cold at the same time. He has to make decisions," Mr. Thompson said, while noting that Mr. Bastian was "very concerned and disappointed" in the direction the union was headed.
He noted that under the leadership of Mr. Bain, the union did not have the skills needed to hold on to Worker's Bank, which was bought by Bank of The Bahamas.
"I think Mr. Bain likes to please everybody and that can't happen," he added. "The employers don't seem to have a high regard for leadership of the union."
Mr. Thompson also intimated that he and Mr. Bastian were pained by what they perceived to be the slow progress made by the union under Mr. Bain's leadership.
"[Mr. Bastian] is concerned because we've put so much years into this union and that wasn't easy," Mr. Thompson said. "He's concerned for the union and for the workers."
But not all trade unionists agree that Mr. Bain is a weak leader.
Frank Carter, former president of the Airport Airline and Allied Workers Union, believes that Mr. Bain has simply been getting a bad rap and that there is a bias against him in the media.
"It's mainly because the employers have been very successful in getting their propaganda out and unions usually lose the public relations battle. We don't have the sort of financial resources or the friends in the media like the employers," said Mr. Carter, who is also the 1st vice president of the umbrella organization, the National Congress of Trade Unions, which Mr. Bain also heads.
He said, "I think Mr. Bain tries to listen to all points of view. He tries to be more inclusive of the views of his executive team to come to positions by consensus. His style is just different from Thomas Bastian's, whose style was different from David Knowles'."
Mr. Carter is now the principal of an industrial and labour relations consultancy firm in Palmdale. He said that it is not unusual for the union and the association to still be negotiating a new agreement after 16 months.
"I'm not surprised," Mr. Carter said. "If you look at other negotiations in The Bahamas over the years and negotiations in other jurisdictions, you would find that this is not so much out of the ordinary. I believe the high visibility and at times the public pronouncements by both sides and also the concerns of the government have brought more attention to these negotiations."
He said he once negotiated for 22 months with Bahamasair for a new contract.
"Sometimes it is very difficult," Mr. Carter pointed out. "So I can understand [the difficulty faced by] Brother Pat Bain and his team and I can also understand [the difficulty faced by] Mr. Barrie Farrington who heads the employers' team."
Mr. Carter added that members of the union's executive team were working well together and to suggest otherwise would be incorrect.
But Mr. Thompson has doubts about that.
"They have some serious problems as I understand it," he told the Bahama Journal.
Mr. Thompson, who has been out of active trade unionism for a few years, advised Mr. Bain to be willing to give up more, although he acknowledged that he had no inside information on the talks.
"You never get what you want," he said.
But Mr. Thompson conceded that the 12 percent salary increase the union is demanding is reasonable.
"If you look at the workers at the lower end, people in the kitchen and the garden, that's not really doing too much for them," he said.
Government officials mediating the talks expect that the matter will come to a head before the end of the week.