Ferguson: Severed Grand Lucayan workers must be reemployed

Ferguson: Severed Grand Lucayan workers must be reemployed

Umbrella union pres. says govt. should not play “judge, jury and executioner”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson has called on the government and new owners of the Grand Lucayan resort in Grand Bahama to make every effort to ensure the continuity of workers as the resort changes ownership.

There are 54 employees at the resort.

The government signed a heads of agreement for the sale of the property to Royal Caribbean and ITM Group earlier this month.

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has indicated that as the ownership of the property changes, all of the workers at the resort will be severed and the “new employer will then decide who they are going to reemploy”.

Ferguson, who is also lead negotiator for the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association, warned that when government agencies begin to operate as “judge, jury and executioner all at the same time, it is a recipe for disaster and confusion”.

He said it is critical that before any employee is severed stakeholders meet, discuss the payouts and the future of employees.

“I saw the minister casually a couple of days ago and I suspect when we get to that point, we would finalize the figures,” Ferguson told Eyewitness News.

“I will meet with the members and we will come to a final conclusion. It is not a one-way street. It is a two-way street and whenever government agencies begin to operate as judge, jury and executioner all at the same time, it is a recipe for disaster and confusion. The formulae worked before. We would expect that the minister of tourism would follow that.

“At this kind of time in this country, the fact of workers losing [jobs] shouldn’t even be in our vocabulary. All efforts must be made to ensure continuity of employment — every worker who receives a package on the change of ownership.

“The government and the union should do everything in its power to secure the jobs of every worker in Grand Bahama. If there are going to be adjustments we should discuss it intelligently, look at the reality and draw a reasonable conclusion.”

Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson

Ferguson said the association will do everything it can to ensure the new owners continue to employ the workers.

He called on the D’Aguilar to echo those sentiments, noting the association is prepared to “join hands with him to ensure every worker continues to be employed, particularly at a time like this”.

The government originally purchased the resort from former owners Hutchison Whampoa in September 2018 for $65 million, with $30 million paid upfront.

D’Aguilar said the government sold the resort for roughly what it was purchased for.

Following the original purchase, 164 workers accepted voluntary separation packages, including gratuity and back pay, valued at nearly $3.2 million.

The government also agreed to a $4.4 million VSEP exercise for 72 managers at the resort.

The heads of agreement has yet to be laid in the House of Assembly.

The document will account for the total value of the sale and concessions offered to the purchasers.