NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Baha Mar President Graeme Davis yesterday encouraged the government to do its part and “act fairly” toward Baha Mar employees over National Insurance Board (NIB) unemployment benefits, which numerous employees have reported not receiving in many weeks.
Davis, who appeared as a guest on ILTV’s Beyond The Headlines with host Clint Watson, said he would like for Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to intervene on the matter.
“Look, I understand the government’s perspective, but clearly we have been making ex gratia payments since we closed the resort on March 25. We made a commitment to all of our associates that we would pay an ex gratia payment, a significant percentage of their salary, while we have been closed throughout the summer; through the extensions of the unemployment benefits, right up to where we are today — we are paying ex gratia payments to all of our associates.”
According to Davis, the resort has paid over $70 million during the period of closure to make a “significant impact” to support employees and communities.
The Baha Mar president said he was unaware of any other private company in The Bahamas that has made a commitment that the resort has.
He said the resort will continue to make ex gratia payments to employees through the new year while certain properties remain closed.
“Ever since we closed, we supplied a list of our associates to the NIB and they have been giving payments ever since we closed, so they have had our list from day one,” Davis said.
“What they are trying to do now is not give the NIB benefit to our associates by deducting what we’re giving to them in ex gratia and I believe it’s unfair.
“Our associates should get the NIB payment like any other private companies and associates are being given, and on top of that, we’re giving an ex gratia payment on top of the NIB payment.
“So, we’re making it clear to NIB and to the government that they should do their part and treat our employees fairly and pay the NIB benefit, the unemployment benefit through the Ministry of Finance and NIB.
“We have given them a list; they’ve had the list from day one.”
Davis acknowledged it is the government’s decision to only supplement Baha Mar’s ex gratia payment up to $100, but said he believes it is unfair.
He added: “We are creating an additional incentive and support to our associates by giving them this ex gratia payment on top and I don’t believe it should be deducted — the unemployment benefit from what we are paying. They should be getting both. What should happen is they should get paid, whether they get paid the full amount or whether they get paid the partial amount, they should get paid and they have the list.”
Davis said the resort resubmitted the list of associates to the government this week.
To employees, Davis encouraged them to “stay strong, persevere”.
“We are doing everything we can; we have been doing everything we can since we closed on March 25 to support our associates,” he said.
“We have provided a list from day one of our closure to the government.
“They have supported you and we applaud the government supporting, and extending these benefits.
“So, the government has done a tremendous job in providing those unemployment benefits from day one.
“We encourage the government to continue to do it as quickly as possible.”
Davis said the resort will continue working with NIB and the government to ensure employees get “whatever the most is possible for them to support them during these very difficult times”.
Asked whether the prime minister ought to intervene, Davis said: “I would love to have the prime minister intervene”, noting that while he spoke with former Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest “he is no longer with us”.
“I asked him to intervene and he was going to look into it and he’s of course left,” Davis said.
“I am doing everything I can. We are all doing everything we can at Baha Mar to support the associates. We ask them to stay strong and persevere.”
The resort plans to open in phases beginning next week Thursday.
Davis said the resort looks forward to the COVID-19 situation getting under control in US markets in the future and the possibility of inviting more employees back to work.