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20% Baha Mar staff cut looms

Baha Mar is preparing to make about 20 percent of its staff of 6,000 redundant, The Nassau Guardian understands.

While around 1,200 are being cut from the staff list, the company reportedly intends to keep most of the remainder of its workers furloughed amid an extended closure due to the unprecedented economic fallout caused by COVID-19.

Around 300 employees remain at the property to provide security and other services.

Baha Mar President Graeme Davis previously announced that the Cable Beach resort plans to open on October 1.

The reopening — originally intended to be July 1 — was delayed to “set the stage for a more successful reopening”.

At the time, Davis also foreshadowed staff reductions “to align staffing levels with projected business volume upon reopening”.

The redundancies will also impact staff at Melia.

Baha Mar committed to providing an ex gratia payment of 30 percent of base salary — in addition to what staff collect from the National Insurance Board (NIB).

For those who remain furloughed, the company will continue to cover eligible benefits, insurance premiums necessary to maintain health insurance, life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage.

In the House of Assembly on Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government budgeted over $40 million to provide a special allowance for those still unemployed when their NIB unemployment benefit ends.

He said, “We will administer this special program through the NIB — as we are presently doing for self-employed individuals — but it is important to point out that this will not be NIB funds nor NIB assistance. Instead, it is our recognition that tens of thousands of people will still need some measure of cash assistance after their NIB benefits expire.”

The assistance is being extended from 13 weeks to 26 weeks for those who became unemployed due to COVID-19.

“Never before in the history of an independent Bahamas have we experienced an unemployment rate of approximately 40 percent. Global tourism and travel were decimated and most of it came to a grinding halt,” the prime minister said.

When he contributed recently to the 2020/2021 budget debate, Brensil Rolle, the minister of national insurance and public service, advised that NIB paid out in excess of $50 million from its fund since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of that amount, $38.1 million was paid out in 62,048 disbursements of NIB Unemployment Benefit expedited claims to 24,917 applicants.

NIB also paid out $9,084,705 million to 6,763 applicants of the government’s Unemployment Assistance Programme for self-employed people negatively impacted by the closing of the economy during the pandemic.

On Monday, Minnis attempted to strike an optimistic note as he spoke about tourism and economic prospects.

He pointed out that Baha Mar has advised, notwithstanding its revised projected opening date, that it will immediately recommence construction and utilize the time of closure to continue the $300 million expansion to its resort offerings.

The property’s phase II evolution will include amenities such as Mini Blue, an 18-hole miniature golf course, and new retail stores including Tory Burch and Mont Blanc, as well as fan-favorite Sugar Factory, he noted.

Minnis added, these projects will be the main focus throughout the coming months and launch upon the fall reopening for guests to enjoy.

He also noted contemporary upgrades and improvements to the Melia had already began in October of 2019, and will also recommence within the coming days.

“All of Baha Mar phase II projects have been awarded to local contractors, providing direct and immediate employment for more than 300 Bahamians,” Minnis said.

“This $300 million expansion is an investment in the future. It is a sign of confidence that Baha Mar is committed to creating the best platform for a successful reopening in the fall.”

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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