Categorized | National News

Gov’t Hindered in Assisting Laid off Workers, Says Butler-Turner

Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner and the party’s Chairman Darron Cash blasted the government after 190 employees were fired from the Crystal Palace on Friday, Mrs. Butler-Turner said that the Christie administration failed to defend the employees because of their unresolved payment to Baha Mar for the road works along West Bay Street, meanwhile Mr. Cash accused the government of throwing Bahamian workers under the bus again.

In a press statement released over the weekend, the FNM deputy leader urged the government to act and explained that when the former FNM administration renegotiated with Baha Mar on the opening of the resort, there was considerable care taken to ensure that Bahamian workers would not be made redundant in the process of the opening of the various hotels at the resort.

“This is a very painful time for those who have lost their livelihoods, especially weeks before Christmas, as well as a difficult time for their families,” she said.

“As was done under the previous FNM administration, we call on the government to respond in a fulsome manner to the needs of those workers made redundant. There was agreement to redeploy staff in the lead-up to and the opening of the various hotels at Baha Mar. The former FNM government did not agree to make workers redundant in this process. Unfortunately, the PLP Government lacks the moral authority to defend the workers and the union, and to make demands on Baha Mar given the fact that they are in breach of the obligations outlined in the Heads of Agreement to pay for the road works.”

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Phillip Davis told the Bahama Journal that the payout for road works done by Baha Mar remained unresolved, he added that he had hoped the matter would be sorted out by now but that such hope has dwindled, however he said that more than $20 million have been paid to the resort for road works.

According to a press statement from Baha Mar on Friday, Crystal Palace will close its doors to paying guests and the property will be used primarily for the training of thousands of hotel, food and beverage, security and other personnel in advance of Baha Mar’s opening in spring of next year.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said that on November 7, 2011, in a communication tabling the novated Heads of Agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and Baha Mar, former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hubert Ingraham specifically made it clear that there was an agreement to redeploy staff in the lead-up to and the opening of the various hotels at Baha Mar, therefore she stressed that the former FNM government did not agree to making workers redundant in this process.

She added that in the renegotiated agreement there was great emphasis placed on the training of new employees to be taken on for Baha Mar for as many as 7,000 people.
In press statement released on Sunday, Mr. Cash stressed that Bahamian workers deserve a labor-friendly government that is determined to fight for them at all times.

“Our fellow Bahamians face a bleak Christmas and with VAT hanging over their heads like the Sword of Damocles, they face an even bleaker New Year,” he said.

“We join them in saying ‘thanks for nothing Prime Minister Perry Christie’.”

The move to terminate those employees is not sitting well with Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Nicole Martin as well.

The union’s president, Ms. Martin reportedly said that neither she nor the employees were informed of Baha Mar’s plan to terminate workers.

“There is no reason why Baha Mar, knowing well in advance that layoffs were expected should not have notified workers in advance about impending firings and thereby giving them an opportunity to search for job opportunities elsewhere,” Mr. Cash said.

“With advance notice people could have left on their own terms.”

Mr. Cash also went on to blast Baha Mar, he accused the resort of exploiting those workers to the bitter end before dropping the axe on them.

“Instead it appears that this group of workers who kept the company going was exploited by Baha Mar right down to the last minute and just when they had outlived their usefulness to Baha Mar, they were unceremoniously dumped on their backsides,” he said.

“This is indeed very sad and regrettable, it should not have happened that way.”

On Friday, after a nearly two hour long meeting with the prime minister over the matter, Ms. Martin told reporters that the government may take legal action against the resort for breaching clauses laid out in the Heads of Agreement.

A day after the termination exercise, the Bahama Journal asked the resort’s Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Administration Robert Sands if Baha Mar did indeed breached clauses in the Heads of Agreement by firing those employees, he refused to confirm.

“We have no comment at this time, we had meetings with the government yesterday (Friday) and we’ll allow those meetings to continue,” he said.

The Bahama Journal also spoke with BHCAWU’s General Secretary Darrren Wood who explained how Baha Mar breached clauses in the Heads of Agreement through the firing of those employees.

“The Heads of Agreement protects those workers because Baha Mar is supposed to maintain level of 1,500 employees; also they’re supposed to add to the numbers bringing the numbers to some 5,500,” he said.

“At some point the Wyndam Hotel was supposed to close for renovation and the existing employees were supposed to move into the new resort or existing resort so with them moving to terminate those employees it breaches the agreement.”

As for those employees who were given their walking papers, the statement from Baha Mar added that some 100 Crystal Palace employees have already been invited to accept new positions at the Melia Beach Hotel and Baha Mar.

“We’ll be keen to know who those 100 persons are because based on the Heads of Agreement they are not to be invited to, they have to be moved over so if you have 100 employees those persons are supposed to go over not invite them too, if you have 190 employees those persons are supposed to be moved into the existing or the new one, so they should not be inviting them too, again that’s a violation or breach of the Heads of Agreement,” he said.

“The government has given us the assurance that they are going to look into it because they agree with us that they (Baha Mar) can’t just be allowed to breach agreements. They’re able to reap the benefits of the agreement they signed but if the Bahamian people cannot reap any of the benefits that they have signed onto it just leave much to be desired.”

Some employees reportedly had tears in their eyes as they left the hotel; some said that they had worked at the property for more than 20 years.

Labour Minister Shane Gibson reportedly expressed that the government is not pleased with Baha Mar’s decision.

As per the statement, Baha Mar ensured that it has discharged all contractual obligations towards the affected workers.

This is not the first time that Baha Mar carried out mass firing, back in February 2012, about 140 Crystal Palace employees were laid off.

The government and the union are expected to hold another round of discussions on the matter tomorrow.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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