Two resorts to hire some of the laid off Our Lucaya workers
Sandals Exuma and the Bimini Big Game Resort and Marina have agreed to take on 59 persons who were laid off from the Our Lucaya Resort in Grand Bahama last week.
Labour Minister Dion Foulkes revealed that Sandals is offering some 40 jobs, and the Bimini Big Game Resort has agreed to pick up the remaining 19.
Yesterday Foulkes applauded the efforts of the two Family Island resorts, while noting that the government has put in place several initiatives to assist the laid off workers.
Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union(BHCAWU)Secretary General Darrin Woods has slammed the Our Lucaya Resort for allegedly failing to give the union notice of the intended 200 lay-offs and not following the industrial agreement in place.
According to Foulkes, the government recognizes the hardship being experienced by the families in Grand Bahama, especially the former employees of Our Lucaya and in an effort to provide immediate relief and to assist in finding jobs, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development is partnering with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the National Insurance Board, Sandals Exuma, the Bimini Big Game Resort, the Grand Bahama Christian Council, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Bahama Pastor’s Forum.
“They should all be eligible to receive the 13-week unemployment benefit, but we also hope that through the apprenticeship program that we are doing where persons would be able to work to acquire new skills, that a lot of persons would be engaged in the private sector, namely, in the industrial part of Grand Bahama,”Foulkes said yesterday.
On Friday the Our Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort confirmed that due to economic conditions on the island, it was forced to let go some 200 employees. In a press statement the resort said the move is a part of the effort to keep it operational and to save over 800 jobs.
Foulkes explained that the majority of the 200 persons that were let go are near retirement, or have been at the hotel for a long time. Of the 200 persons laid off, 174 are members of the bargaining agent.
The company has indicated that it would compensate managers and line staff who were let go in accordance with the Employment Act. Our Lucaya deemed it an unfortunate action, but said it was the only viable alternative in streamlining its expenses and keeping the resort operational until it emerges from the downturn in the economy.
“Some persons may go and start new businesses with their severance packages, or some people might just go into retirement,”Foulkes said.
Woods accused the company of failing to follow the procedures relating to layoffs, which is week on week off, reduced days and a four-week layoff period, and then a move to redundancy.
“The company moved right to redundancy,”Woods contended.
“We don’t know how they arrived at the process of which employee was to go, who made up the list or whether calculations were done correctly. I am just disappointed that we have some investors who can come into the country and totally disregard the rights of the workers in this country, and there is nothing to be said. No penalties for them,”he added.
Woods charged that the country’s labor laws must be strengthened.
“They have to be stiffened. While we appreciate the investors and want them to come and invest, they have to respect the rights of the workers of this country,”he said,
“The morale of the employees is low and it has been low for some time. This is no time to tell someone that they no longer have a job, when you talk about an economy that is already depressed and the chances of(finding)a job are so limited and nothing was said to the union,”Woods said.
Some of the initiatives offered by the government will include training programs at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute and The College of The Bahamas in a variety of skill sets, apprenticeships in the private sector, social services assistance programs for all those who qualify, financial counseling organized by the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Bahama Christian Council, and initiatives in the Self Starters Program offered by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
The union and hotel executives are scheduled to meet at the Department of Labour on Wednesday to chart the way forward.