Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said yesterday that, while an agreement has been made for voluntary separation packages (VSEPs) for line staff at the Grand Lucayan resort in Grand Bahama, consultation with the board is ongoing as it relates to money owed to some employees that span several years.
The government, which recently purchased the property for $65 million, with $30 million paid upfront, has accepted responsibility for paying the workers’ severance.
Attorney Pleasant Bridgewater, who represents line staff at the resort, has negotiated that the government also provide back pay owed to the workers who have opted to leave and who will remain at the property.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Foulkes said, “We have an agreement in principle with the line staff union.
“The union executives are now, for the last week or so, they have been in consultation with the management at the hotel.
“We have a global figure that we have agreed with them. We are trying to work out the specific payout for all 160 persons, just to make sure that, that is accurate.
“Some of the monies that are owed to some of the employees at the hotel go back for several years, so we want to ensure that, that was accurate.
“We do not have a settlement with the management union at this point, but we hope to have that soon.”
Asked about the back pay owed, Foulkes said, “I prefer not to comment on that at this time, because that is the subject of discussion between union and the management. When they settle that, I would be happy to.”
It is unclear how much those employees are owed.
President of the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association Obie Ferguson has said that he is seeking over $4 million for the 90 managers at the Grand Lucayan resort who have opted for VSEPs.
The last offer made by the board was around $3.2 million, according to Ferguson.
He said the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding the severance pay for the years of service for each employee.
Asked yesterday whether he plans to meet with Ferguson regarding the matter, Foulkes said, “I spoke to Mr. Ferguson yesterday about five matters, but I totally forgot to mention to him the [Grand Lucayan matter] but we do intend to talk to them.”
He continued, “At this point, maybe next week, I can give you a more definitive position on the negotiations with the management union and Mr. Obie Ferguson. I personally have not been involved with it. I may get involved with it as of tomorrow, but personally, I’ve not been involved with it, so I prefer not to comment on it.”
While he could not indicate a time frame on when the separation exercise will be complete, Foulkes said, “The workers at the hotel, they have been waiting for quite some time. I know a lot of them are anxious. I know a lot of them personally, and we hope to bring resolution very shortly, but I do not want to put days on it; I do not want to put weeks on it.”
With the government continuing to incur $1.5 million every month in operational costs for the resort, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said in December that, that cost is expected to decrease following the completion of the separation exercise.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications