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Hotel workers unhappy with BIU

By Tim Greenfield, GazetteNET News, 29 March 2000

Hotel workers have threatened to withdraw their support of the Bermuda Industrial Union after claims over unresolved problems at the Island's largest resort.

A handful of unidentified members has put together a petition which calls for action on unspecified issues by April 15 - or their weekly dues will be diverted to a local charity instead of the union.

A meeting was held at the Fairmont Southampton Princess yesterday but it was unclear what the outcome was.

Management of the hotel is in the dark over what the issues are and BIU president Derrick Burgess is currently off the Island.

BIU general secretary Molly Burgess did not return calls and Princess union representative Herbie Bascome is also off the Island.

One staff member at the Southampton Princess claimed the problems surrounded a few long-term workers who had left the hotel, adding that he believed they had been forced out as part of a "Fairmont purge".

He added that some employees felt the BIU had let them down, which had led to the petition calling for "urgent attention and representation in solving the many problems".

But general manager Norman Mastalir said he wasn't aware of any specific problems that had been brought to his attention, but said he knew that representations had been made to the BIU.

He said a general unrest amongst the staff was most likely related to the changes being brought about in the industry to improve the service given to visitors.

"Everybody in Bermuda seems to be in tune with the Government's wishes to revitalise tourism," he said.

"We have to change the way we operate the hotel to reflect what the customer needs. That is going to require a great deal of effort, patience and willingness to change.

"Resistance to change, just because we have done something this way for 20 years doesn't make it right."

Mr. Mastalir added that the shifts were fundamental in order to let the hotels catch up with the competition they were lagging behind. He said it was vital that all employees were a part of the modernisation. "There are an awful lot of changes going on, people find it difficult to cope."