‘What do we do?’
As Atlantis resort on Paradise Island closed its casino and reduced operations due to lower occupancy as a result of COVID-19, laying off a number of workers and asking others to take paid vacation leave, some workers found themselves plunged into uncertainty.
Stephanie St. Fleur, an employee at the resort for more than 20 years, said the situation will be challenging but she considers her health to be most important.
“I have a three-month-old come next week Wednesday, so I actually was supposed to be returning back to work actually a week ago,” St. Fleur told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
“[But] on finding out about the coronavirus, I’d asked my boss to put me on vacation because I fit in the vulnerable category plus I have my parents who are both over the age of 60, and during my pregnancy I’m still taking medication for hypertension so I’m definitely one of those vulnerable who are high-risk.
“I didn’t want to risk going to work not knowing if any of my peers or any of my colleagues have been in contact with anyone who probably was visiting our shores and might have had the virus.
“So it’s going to be rough, but for me personally prevention is better than cure. I know financially it’s going to be a burden.”
Nedra Adderley, an employee of 12 years, said she’s concerned that if the closure lasts more than two weeks, she might not be able to support her family.
“Although the government is trying to put measures in place, it’s still a process [and] a large number of persons are affected by this,” Adderley said.
“So what do we do in the meantime?
“[Utility companies] are not waving electricity or water bills until this pandemic is over, we are still left to pay these as well as rent/mortgages, so what do we do until then?
“Kids are home; we all have to eat; cars have wear and tear, how do we fix them?”
Adderley said it was unclear whether staff who worked on Friday, before the layoffs were announced on Saturday, would still be paid for that day.
St. Fleur also said she feels there are some unanswered questions about what will happen in the long run.
“My question is [what happens] after the temporary lay off? I have questions about that,” St. Fleur said.
“One of my questions too is how secure would our job be after this temporary lay off.”
She also wondered what would happen if employees who are asked to take vacation now would be allowed to take “an actual vacation” later on.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” St. Fleur said, “but it’s better to be safe than sorry”.
The Nassau Guardian understands that while some workers have not received National Insurance Board (NIB) letters as yet, Atlantis officials are set to have a meeting today where such concerns are expected to be addressed.
In a letter signed by Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods, union members were advised that the union is working with the government and the hotel to “come up with the appropriate relief for the workers in the shortest possible time and we will do our best to avoid any lapse in benefits”.
Woods told The Guardian that in his over 25 years of working in the hotel industry, he has never witnessed anything that had such a widespread impact as COVID-19 is having.
“I’ve been in the industry since 1990, even during the Gulf War, it didn’t hit every single industry or business as it is going to affect every single business,” he said.
“But we know anything that affects the tourism industry has a trickle-down effect. There are some industries that are closely connected but this one is even far-reaching. Even the churches are going to be affected. But the thing about it is, it’s worldwide. That’s what is making it so unprecedented.”
St. Fleur added: “[I’m] praying this doesn’t last more than 30 days. The hotel staff are the ones who support the inner city, local clothing stores, beauty and barber, mom and papa, so if it cripples us financially this will flow in the north and south of New Providence.”
Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest last week said the Minnis administration will direct millions of dollars towards healthcare, social relief and other benefits for those directly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.