Davis says Atlantis following owner’s mandate on vaccinations

The government has asked Atlantis to reconsider making unvaccinated employees pay for weekly COVID-19 tests, according to Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who yesterday added that the government is concerned about how the extra cost will affect employees who are not fully back to work.

Davis, who met with Atlantis President Audrey Oswell on Tuesday, told reporters yesterday that the new policy was the result of a mandate by Brookfield Asset Management, which owns Atlantis, that all employees be fully vaccinated.

“Vaccination is mandatory for anyone who wishes to continue their employment with Brookfield,” he said.

“She appreciates the concern that we have about mandatory vaccination. She reached a compromise with her corporate office that at least if they were to ask persons, who wanted to continue to work with Atlantis, that they pay for their testing [and] that might encourage them to get vaccinated.

“When we left the meeting, they were going to revisit the issue of whether they continue to pay but, at the same time, we did indicate to her our desire to put in place free testing, which we are still working on the logistics and how we could get it done, so that might fall away with respect to the costs to the employee. But we are still working on that, so it might take some time.”

Atlantis, which is the largest private employer in The Bahamas, implemented a policy on October 1 mandating that all employees who are not fully vaccinated pay for their own weekly rapid antigen COVID-19 tests, which was previously covered by the resort.

The resort said it secured a “highly discounted” rate for employees to get tested. 

The new policy came into effect nearly a year after Atlantis began bringing its more than 7,000 employees back to work following a months-long furlough caused by a shutdown of The Bahamas’ tourism sector, which was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have asked them to reconsider whether the employees ought to pay but it was designed, one, to keep people on their job having regard to their corporate mandate; and they want to also be compliant with the wishes of the government not to mandate vaccination; and, thirdly, they wanted to ensure that persons appreciate the need to be vaccinated,” Davis said.

While the majority of the resort’s employees are back to work, some remain furloughed and others remain on rotating work schedules.

The prime minister raised issue with this yesterday in relation to the recent policy change.

“Our concern in respect to that was not every employee is working seven days,” he said.

“They are being rotated two, three days a week. So, when they get whatever that salary is, to deduct a cost of a test from that sum leaves them very little.

“It eats into what they can do with their income, particularly in light of the challenges they’re having not having a full pay, full work week and the challenges that they would’ve had having been furloughed for so long.”

The prime minister said he believes that the resort took on the government’s “representations in respect to the workers”.

He said the government will continue to monitor the situation. 

Last week, Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell said the resort had postponed its move to require unvaccinated employees to pay for testing.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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