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Grand Lucayan VSEPs disputed

Managers at Grand Lucayan resort in Grand Bahama are not prepared to accept the latest voluntary separation offer made by the board of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd., according to Obie Ferguson, president of the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association.

The government, which recently purchased the property, has accepted responsibility for paying the workers severance.

Lucayan Renewal Holdings, a special purpose vehicle established by the government, is handling the process and is also responsible for finding a new buyer for the resort.

In a letter to Board Chairman Michael Scott, dated December 12, 2018, Ferguson informed of the issues his members have with the offer.

He said the board is refusing to pay the managers for the full number of years they worked.

The letter cites several past voluntary separation package (VSEP) exercises the government has conducted as reference points to the parties reaching an amicable agreement.

“In order to demonstrate our willingness to compromise, we removed our calculations, meals and laundry, substantially reducing the total amount of the voluntary separation package,” Ferguson wrote.

“…As I have said to you on more than one occasion, voluntary separation package is not a creature of common law or statutory law; it is a principle of a business necessity. The terms should be determined by the parties.

“This may very well be the reason for the apparent confusion.

“However, if you examine the examples that I have cited above, with respect to the government and its subsidiaries, we should not be far apart.

“The years of service is critical in reaching any reasonable compromise.

“Therefore, I submit to you that the severance packages are based on the previous voluntary packages of the government and its agencies over the years, and hope that you will conform to the practice.

“The workers are awaiting an early decision on this matter and we invite you and your board to treat it as such.”

On Tuesday, Scott said the board will not budge from its final offer.

“We have reached a finite number in respect to both the management and the line staff and our position is, this is what we are prepared to offer you. If you wish to take advantage of the packages, you accept what we’ve offered; if you don’t, show up to work,” Scott said.

When asked yesterday whether the managers are prepared to take the offer, Ferguson said, “No, because they just pulled something out of the air.

“We asked for a breakdown as to how you arrived at whatever you arrived at. He has yet to give us a proposal. We sent him two sets of proposals in writing. He has not given us a proposal to justify the position he is advancing.

“To do that he has to disregard, in some cases, six years of employment, because if you’ve been there for 18 years and he is only basing it on 12 years, he is actually taking off six years completely. He doesn’t want to pay for the period of years of service. That’s really what the issue is.”

More than 200 employees of the resort have applied for VSEPs.

Ninety of the 115 managers have applied.

They are collectively entitled to between $3 million and $3.5 million, Ferguson claims.

The resort currently employs just over 400 people.

The government is purchasing the resort for $65 million with $30 million paid upfront.

When asked about the matter outside Parliament yesterday, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said, “As far as I know, they have been negotiating right up until yesterday and there is an agreement on how it will be settled.

“That’s pretty much all I want to say about this, but as far as I’m aware we’ve come to a position with respect to it and those payouts should happen very very soon.”

When asked about the amount of the payout, Turnquest said, “I really don’t remember but I think we had suggested it be somewhere around $5 million in total. I think that number is still in play.

“I don’t know where exactly but we should make that target. It will be a full settlement.”

Turnquest said those payouts should happen before Christmas.

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Sloan Smith

Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas. Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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