Davis takes issue with Grand Lucayan terminations
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said an employee separation exercise at the Grand Lucayan in Freeport is not in line with the rationale the government applied in its decision to purchase the property.
“It has come to my attention that the government has made a unilateral decision to release the staff at the Grand Lucayan Hotel in Grand Bahama,” Davis said in a statement.
“I remind the prime minister that he went to great lengths to convince the country that one of his primary reasons for his government’s purchase of this hotel was to protect those hotel jobs there.
“His claim has not materialized.”
Part of the conditions of the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort to Royal Caribbean International and ITM Group is a phased separation of the resort’s employees, which began on Wednesday, according to a statement from Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited (LRHL), the special purpose vehicle created to acquire all of the resort’s assets.
The separation exercise is expected to affect about 165 people and will continue until the end of July.
The government has spent more than $8.5 million on employee severance packages to date.
Bahamas Port Investments Limited – a partnership between Royal Caribbean and ITM Group, will completely redevelop the property, though it is not yet fully understood how much the companies have had to rethink their timelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 2, Bahamas Port Investments Limited signed the deal to take control of the Grand Lucayan, obligating LRHL to complete severance exercises “prior to the transfer of ownership”.
The resort’s highly anticipated reopening was expected to bring an economic boost to the island, which has been struggling economically for several years. However, with the pandemic having brought the tourism industry to a halt, the former employees join thousands of other jobless Bahamians.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis told reporters on Friday that the separation exercise was no surprise, but noted that there was a breakdown in communication between the new owners and employees.
Davis said he was “disappointed” with the way Minnis has handled the situation. He said there should have been better communication with the unions involved.
“I am empathetic to the plight of those displaced workers and others in the industry, but I am very disappointed with the heartless and mean-spirited manner in which the prime minister is conducting this redundancy exercise,” he said
“Just this week, both chambers of the House concluded exhaustive and lively debates on the upcoming fiscal budget and as critical as Grand Bahama is, at no time was this labor issue ever raised,” Davis said.
“I am further advised that both the tourism minister, responsible for the hotel at Cabinet level, and the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association executives were also not engaged and left in the dark about discussions that led to these layoffs.
“This is regrettable.
“The Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association executives are not unreasonable, unyielding and inflexible people, but they need and expect a partner in the government who is firstly respectful of them and who consults with and listens to stakeholders with a view to reaching a consensus in the best interest of all concerned.
“I concur with their basic expectations.
“The unions are not asking the prime minister to work miracles, but at the very least, they expect him to act in good faith and with deference.
“As the government still has vacant possession of this property, the prime minister must say how the government intends to avoid further asset deterioration until the sale is concluded and what relief is being offered to the displaced hotel workers.”
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