Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said his union has concerns over whether the recent laying off of some hotel workers complies with the Employment (Amendment) Act, 2017 in consideration of the unprecedented circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a concern because with the extension of the unemployment period, I see the government in the amendment said that they’ve suspended section 28, and we’re going to seek legal interpretation for whether or not they actually suspended the period persons are able to be made redundant until after the COVID-19 and the emergency act comes to an end,” Woods said yesterday.
“So we’re trying to get some legal interpretation of what it means because if in fact it suspends the ability to make persons redundant, then of course these redundancies may be in question.”
The Bahamas has been in a state of emergency over COVID-19 since mid-March, with emergency orders being enacted.
Under these orders, nationwide curfews and lockdowns were implemented along with other social restrictions intended to curb the spread of the virus.
After months of being financially impacted due to the pandemic, the British Colonial Hilton Nassau made at least 22 employees redundant on Tuesday.
The redundancies came as The Bahamas’ economic situation worsens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other major hotels which have closed have announced tentative reopening dates for later in the year, but many employees remain laid off.
Section 28 of the Employment (Amendment) Act, 2017 relates to employee layoffs and short-time.
It specifies the period of time an employee can be laid off before being considered redundant, among other stipulations.
Woods said the union has expected some “casualties” in the pandemic, but that it just wants to make sure workers retain their rights.
“We know that there may be some casualties along the way, but if they could be minimized or eliminated,” Woods said.
“But the thing is, if persons are going to be on an extended layoff, how are they going to be compensated and where are they going to be compensated from? That’s the question.”
He added, “We plan to make sure that in fact, whatever protocols [are] in place, that the rights to the workers are protected.”