Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods yesterday said the phased reopening of the Atlantis resort was welcomed news, but added that while everyone is excited to get back to work, there’s still a wait and see feeling within the industry.
Approximately 5,000 members of the BHCAWU have been out of work for two months because of the emergency lockdown measures implemented in March to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Woods said this news is good for those employees eager to earn a salary again.
“So, that of course you know is welcomed news. We recognize that even though we are opening our borders and the hotels are opening, we still have to see what is going to happen in terms of the traveling public, because if the U.S. and Canadian borders are closed down, where we pretty much get most of tourists from, what is going to happen if there are no guests? So, we still need to see what is going to happen,” Woods told Guardian Business yesterday.
In addition to Atlantis’ phased reopening announcement, the prime minister also announced this weekend that the government is eyeing July 1 for the resumption of commercial flights.
Woods said despite the country doing well with leveling out the numbers of COVID-19 cases, if there is no plan to manage the traveling public coming into the country there will be problems.
He said for now he awaits the government’s health and safety protocols for reopening the economy.
“The thing is everyone wants to get back to work, but we also want them to be able to go back to work in an environment that is safe for all parties involved,” Woods said.
“We know that in short order the government will probably be introducing health and safety guidelines and/or rules, whether it’s by legislation or by the emergency powers act that would govern our people. Once that happens we’ll have to follow suit to make sure our members follow whatever the new norm is for their safety.”
The union, Woods said, has been involved in discussions with tourism and hospitality stakeholders to become abreast of the new protocols surrounding how employees have to service guests and guests visiting hotel properties in a new COVID-19 world.
Those initial discussions were held last Monday.
“They’re pretty much the standards that have been implemented, the mask wearing, the hand sanitizing, the washing, the social distancing. Which means now there may be less persons in, say, the restaurants. We still have to talk about how do we interact with the guests in a restaurant,” he said.
“What is going to be the protocol for the restaurant workers? We know what it’s going to be for the house keeping persons, the stewarding persons and those persons behind the scenes that actually go into the rooms. But the persons at the front of the house, i.e. the servers, the bartenders and stuff, what is going to be the new norm for them?
“And it’s still something that has to be fleshed out, and when I say fleshed out, that’s not to be adversarial or confrontational, but it’s so that we can all come up with the right stick for what is going to be the new norm for the hospitality industry. Because we know the hotels around the world have already started introducing new protocols, so I see us following suit and adding our special touches to it.”