The handover of the Grand Lucayan resort to the government has started.
In a letter to employees dated Monday, September 10, 2018 with the subject ‘Continuation of employment with Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited’, Hutchison Lucaya Limited Director P.C. Koh wrote, “We hereby confirm the Grand Lucayan hotel has been purchased by Lucayan Renewals Holdings Ltd. which is owned by the Government of The Bahamas.
“The sale becomes effective September 11, 2018.
“As a result of the sale there will be no change in the terms and conditions of your employment as Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited has agreed to continue the employment of all staff.
“Should you have any questions with respect to the foregoing or the process in general, please contact your union president.
“On behalf of the resort owner and the hotel management, we wish to extend our sincere gratitude to all employees for their dedication and service over the years.”
In a statement, Chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas Michael Scott, the chair of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) – Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited – confirmed the handover process has begun.
Scott advised that he will meet with staff this morning in Grand Bahama, but “out of respect for the staff and to ensure there is no misinformation the board intends to address the staff in full on all matters before statements are made to the press”.
He said employees can rest assured their employment will be protected.
According to Scott, more details will be provided by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis during a statement in Parliament when it resumes from summer break next week Wednesday.
The government is purchasing the hotel for $65 million – $30 million up front and $35 million on a three-and-a-half-year government guaranteed mortgage, which will require parliamentary approval.
At least $10 million has been paid so far.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Commonwealth Union of Hotel Services and Allied Workers (CUHSAW) President Michelle Dorsett said the 400 employees at the hotel received the letter from Hutchison Lucaya Limited on Monday around 3 p.m. during a meeting with hotel management.
CUHSAW represents the line staff at the hotel.
When contacted around 1 p.m., Director of Labour John Pinder said he had not received formal notice as yet, but noted that the government is now bound by the industrial agreement in relation to those employees, though he noted that the union will now have to negotiate with the government for a new agreement as the previous one has expired.
“If the government buys the hotel and they’re unionized, they (the government) would inherit all of that,” said Pinder when contacted for comment.
“Now that it has officially transferred I will seek to have a conservation with the union president.”
As it relates to the agreement, Dorsett said it expired in 2010 and the union has unsuccessfully sought to negotiate a new agreement with the former resort owner.
She revealed that substantial arrears are owed to employees, including back pay dating to 2008 and gratuity payments dating back several years, all of which she expects the government to come to an agreement on.
“They are the two major, major concerns that we are dealing with right now,” said Dorsett, an employee of 16 years.
The union president did not wish to divulge the value of the arrears at this time.
The union is also working with the government to execute a voluntary separation package for employees who wish to leave, according to Dorsett, who said approximately 200 workers are considering taking the VSEP, which is still being negotiated.
She said, however, that process should be completed sometime today.
Dorsett said she expects to meet with the board of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited today.
Dorsett expressed relief that the government has purchased the hotel.
Though the workers are considered full-time employees, she said many of them have been working two to three days, and fewer in some areas.
“I am 110 percent relieved,” she said.
“I’ve been here since 2002. It’s 2018 and I am relieved.
“I thank God that the prime minister had a heart.
“I know that they didn’t want to get into it, but… trust me, sir, it’s not going to be long.
“It’s going to be smooth sailing and persons are going to come and get this hotel, and it’s going to be different types of brands on this hotel.”
Asked about the most pressing concern for employees now that the government has purchased the hotel, Dorsett said she expects the government to appoint a new executive management team, which can properly run the hotel.
She also said she believes the government will do its best to renovate Memories and get the hotel up and running, but she does not expect the government to be the owners for very long as she believes it will find an interested investor to purchase the property in short order.
Dorsett said she has been in constant communication with Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson and Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes and feels the government respects the union.
“The previous owners never respected us, from day one,” she said.
“We came (the union) in 2013 and they never respect us, never.
“I really appreciate their communication and I’m a forceful person and I like things to be on time, to get things right and up and going. I never had that [with] the people who were running it back then.”