Bahamas: Sandals staff made redundant

Bahamas Tribune:-NEWLY redundant employees of Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort will not be given first preference when the resort begins hiring employees for its October re-opening, The Tribune understands.

More than 600 employees were made redundant yesterday, drawing criticism from Labour Minister Shane Gibson.

Many of the workers said they were caught off guard by the news, with scores of them showing up to work in uniform yesterday only to be told they no longer had jobs.

The employees received their severance packages from Christ the King Anglican Church and the resort’s Cable Beach location. A source connected to the resort said the average payout to line staff was $6,105.

The lowest payout in this category was $758 and the highest payout was $22,717, The Tribune was told.

According to the well-placed source, the average payout for supervisors was $20,614, with the highest payout being $34,747 and the lowest payout was $4,626.

Employees were largely docile as they accepted their packages at Christ the King Anglican Church.

One former Sandals worker, however, told The Tribune about his severance pay: “This ain’t much money to spend.”

Another employee said she was deeply disappointed to be made redundant, but is holding on to hope that she will be rehired.

Some employees complained that they were forced to sign a document before receiving their cheque. One woman claimed that the document ordered that workers not talk about Sandals or sue the property, however these details could not be confirmed.

“You can’t get anything unless you sign the statement and even when you sign the statement you are not getting a copy,” the woman claimed.

Asked about this yesterday, Mr Gibson told The Tribune: “I haven’t seen (the form they were asked to sign) but you can’t force anyone to sign a deed of release in order to receive benefits they are entitled to.”

Earlier in the House of Assembly, Mr Gibson said such a move was “illegal”.

A source close to Sandals also denied yesterday that the government was caught off guard by its intention to make hundreds of people redundant, as Labour Minister Shane Gibson had suggested.

The source said officials of the resort met with Prime Minister Perry Christie several times recently and informed him of the decision.

In at least one of these meetings, Mr Gibson was present, the source said.

Yesterday, Mr Christie declined to speak on the Sandals matter when approached by reporters.

The Tribune understands that the rehiring process at the resort is already underway.

“First preference will be given to employees most qualified for the job,” one source said. “The length of time a person worked there won’t be as relevant. It’s not a matter of seniority. It’s a matter of productivity.”

Mr Gibson had expressed outrage that Sandals decided to make employees redundant instead of laying them off, since in the latter instance the employees could have returned to work at the resort’s reopening.

A Sandals’ source, however, said this option was not possible because the resort does not have a union agreement.

To this, Mr Gibson said: “They could have invited employees to take time off without pay if they wished. I agree the law does not allow lay offs unless it’s in the employees contract, but it can be done by the consent of the employees.”

In a statement yesterday, Sandals said it made employees redundant in order to carry out necessary repairs to the resort.

“Highly regarded for its rich regal history, the 60-year-old resort is set to unveil a newly renovated Windsor pool and restored Balmoral pool deck as well as major upgrades to five of its restaurants to include re-roofing,” the resort said in a statement. “Meanwhile, the Windsor Ballroom is undergoing significant improvements to include updated audio visual equipment and soft furnishings. Other repair work being undertaken extends to the resort’s Red Lane Spa and an overhaul of electrical systems in select areas. Several rooms and suites affected by recent emergency maintenance issues are also being restored. The widespread work is being undertaken as the resort refines its commitment to consistently elevate its offerings and provide guests with the World’s Leading Caribbean resort chain’s Luxury Included vacation experience. The repairs and upgrades which forced the resort’s closure on August 15 are being fast-tracked at an estimated cost of $4m and are to be implemented within 14 weeks – a massive feat itself, considering the original time-frame for completion was appraised at four months.

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