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Former Melia employees frustrated in wait for unemployment assistance

Tensions were high yesterday as more than 40 former Melia Nassau Beach hotel workers protested outside the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) headquarters in frustration over outstanding unemployment assistance and other pending issues.

“The former employees of Melia contacted me two Thursdays back indicating they have not received their extension from the government assistance and I was in consultation with them ever since,” BHCAWU President Darrin Woods said yesterday.

“I got the information. I requested all of the names of who was made redundant along with the information needed. Since that time, some of them began receiving the extension to the unemployment benefit. Some of them saw that it was on their accounts, but pending.”

However, the protesters said it is unclear when they will receive their monies due to an unreliable system.

Tamika Smith, a former employee of Melia, said there is much confusion surrounding payments to the workers who were made redundant.

“We have been able to receive NIB assistance, but when?” Smith asked.

“… We are calling on the union to find out what is going on. From my understanding, we were supposed to get $1,500 [from NIB] when we were made redundant. We ain’t get that. They say they don’t know anything about that.”

Maria Bernard said she gave 35 years to the union, but feels she has been treated like a nobody.

“Why isn’t the hotel union being nice to us now that we need them?” she asked.

“I believe that the union is supposed to be there for the people. The hotel can’t function without a union. “

Others claimed they were treated poorly during the pandemic and left to struggle with families to take care of.

A mother of six said the union should take better care of its members.

“If I make $20, $10 goes to National Insurance and the rest is the union’s own,” said Latoya McPhee-Greenslade, who is also a former Melia employee.

“This is not right. Why should we be standing out here fighting for our own money? I have my children and grandchildren and I have bills.”

But Woods said, “What they said to us was, there are different times in terms of where it (money) goes.

“If it goes to Island Pay, there’s a certain amount of time you have to wait to access the funds. If it goes to your bank account, there’s a certain amount of time and if it’s a check, there’s a certain amount of time. We explained that to the employees. That’s what I knew their problem was originally.”

While the union president said that dues paid by members are not something that can’t be given back, he noted that there have been negotiations for assistance for members who are struggling during the pandemic.

“We have already taken that step to activate that process on their behalf,” he said.

“Not only them but people from The Hilton who are also in the mix. That has been processed. The health and welfare will assist in that regard. The union does not control it. It is a separate entity altogether.

“We will continue to work until the process is completed. Some people have already received their payments from NIB. Once the process with health and welfare is concluded, they will receive their monies. We will continue to do the work we have been doing.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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