Dozens of Hilton employees made redundant

Up to 30 employees of the British Colonial Hilton Nassau have been made redundant, The Nassau Guardian has confirmed.

Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said that 22 of his members at the hotel were made redundant yesterday.

The redundancies came as The Bahamas’ economic situation worsens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A person in management at the Hilton, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said that the hotel had kept on its 280 staff members through the pandemic that led to border closures, but the cost of maintaining the staff complement has been astronomical when weighed against the loss in revenue.

Those made redundant are expected to receive all the severance entitled to them by law.

“We were kind of concerned,” Woods told The Guardian.

“We talked to them. We asked them about the prospects of the government extending the unemployment period for an additional time. The company indicated that they had to move now because they did not close. But, still, those persons were made redundant.”

He added, “It’s kind of a black eye. We were hoping that they could’ve at least waited. But, their thing is now or later, it’s the same results.”

Woods said the catering department and the restaurant were primarily impacted by the redundancies.

“This is kind of one of our biggest fears coming to reality: that there will be redundancies,” he said.

“We didn’t expect it to be so soon because it’s coupled with the forecast of low occupancy all the way through late in the year.”

The Guardian understands that management at the hotel is expected to meet with staff today.

However, Woods doesn’t believe any more individuals will be made redundant during today’s meetings.

“The meeting — and I can’t speak for the company because I don’t know what their intentions are outside what they would’ve said to us — is, I guess, is to reassure the remaining employees that they are going to do whatever is necessary to try to provide as much days as they can once things pick up,” he said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit The Bahamas three months ago, the government imposed a series of curfews, lockdowns, border closures and a plethora of other restrictions.

The restrictions forced the closure of non-essential businesses and hotels with no guests.

In late-March, staff at the Hilton were informed by human resources that they had been temporarily laid off, noting that the hotel’s business continued to be “significantly impacted”.

The Bahamian economy has been strained since March when the government made the decision to close the borders to citizens and non-citizens.

Nearly 50 percent of the Bahamian gross domestic product (GDP) is directly attributed to tourism.

Two in every three jobs are ultimately as a result of the industry.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has announced that domestic tourism and travel will resume, and visitors will be allowed to come to The Bahamas, as of July 1.

Woods told The Guardian yesterday that The Bahamas will only benefit from the reopening of its borders if visitors have the confidence to travel amid the pandemic.

“When you look at it, these are the same persons or people who are out of work for whatever period they’ve been unemployed,” he said.

“They may not have disposable income. We’re also hoping that some of the persons are willing to travel as a gateway with The Bahamas being so close to the United States.”

Woods said the Hilton is the only one of its member properties that has made employees redundant.

“We’re optimistically hoping that it doesn’t spread to other hotels,” he said.

“We’re trying to reach out to other hotels to see exactly what they are doing. They’re indicating ‘not at this time’. By all indications, they want to weather the storm a little bit more.”

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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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