Tourism industry workers fear the worst

Chinaqua Rolle, 44, a furloughed Atlantis employee, is the primary breadwinner in her house.

Her adult daughter and her two grandchildren — ages nine and three — live with her.

Rolle, like many of the thousands of people working in the tourism industry, has been without a job since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Bahamian shores more than three months ago.

“My worst fear is not being able to provide for my family,” she told The Nassau Guardian.

“I fear not being able to keep a roof over my family’s head, for my landlord to come and say we’re evicted and for us not to have a place to go. Those are my worst fears.”

Earlier this month, Atlantis — the largest private employer in The Bahamas — announced that it will begin its phased reopening on July 7.

In its first phase, the resort will open The Royal, Harborside Resort, Royal Bath, Mayan Temple, Power Tower, Zero Entry and Splashers.

It will also open all beaches, Dolphin Cay, the main casino, spa and Marina Village.

This means that not all of the resort’s roughly 7,000 workers will immediately return to work next.

Rolle, who has not yet been called back to work, said the uncertainty makes her feel “uneasy”.

“If you’re made redundant, then you can try to open up your own business or whatever the case is,” she said.

“But, then if they decide not to make you redundant and hold you, instead, until next year or another couple of months and you still don’t have pay coming, then that’s a different ball game altogether. You still have to figure out how you’re going to pay these bills and what you’re going to do.

“You have to have a plan and plenty of us don’t have one… It’s just so much things you have to weigh and it’s not easy all.”

Dave Beckford, who has worked at the resort for more than 20 years, has also not been called back to work.

“I don’t understand it,” he said.

Beckford added, “Our unemployment benefits have not been consistent. As a matter of fact, this week makes four weeks, if we are not paid, that we haven’t gotten paid.”

He said no one is working in his household.

“By the grace of God, I am able to get some assistance from the Salvation Army, the Red Cross to survive,” Beckford said.

In late-March, the government imposed a series of restrictions on The Bahamas in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 locally. Those restrictions included a border closure, nightly curfew and the closure of all public parks and beaches.

The border is expected to reopen on July 1.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Monday that beaches and parks will be allowed to open on Monday.

That announcement was met with excitement by Capprio Saunders, 49, who sells coconuts on Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island.

“I can’t wait to get back to work,” she said.

“You know what I told my friend? If Minnis says the beach opens back up on Monday, five o’clock in the morning I want to be out there; that’s how much I miss work. I’m excited. I just hope the tourists come.”

The last several months have been financially challenging for Saunders, who has a blind husband who depends on her.

“All the money that I had saved, I’ve already run through,” she said.

“I have rent to pay and I have to license my car and insure it. Ain’t nothing coming in. The little $400 they giving you every two weeks, that already been finished. It’s rough.”

When asked how she managed during the pandemic, Saunders replied, “I’ve been managing because I was getting grocery assistance from different churches, Hands for Hunger and I got a little help from the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party). If I wasn’t getting that, then, boy, I don’t know.”

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