NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Riu Hotels and Resorts has furloughed 90 percent of its staff complement while it prepares the premises for the “new way of doing business”, according to Director of Labour John Pinder.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Pinder said: “Well, Riu is not making any money so they decided that they will close down until March and they laid some of the staff off.
“They have a small portion of staff that will be kept on.
“Those staff that remain, they will let them help get the building or premises ready for the new way of doing business.”
According to Pinder, notwithstanding the months-long furlough, the affected staff will not be considered unemployed.
He said: “They are not unemployed because the competent authority, through the emergency order, they have 30 days after the expiration of emergency order to make a decision.”
Once the state of emergency, which was reissued in November, expires, hotels have an additional 30 days to determine what they will do with furloughed employees — either send them back to work or make them redundant.
The labor director has said unemployment in The Bahamas is expected to rebound by the first quarter of 2021, but explained that until that recovery, resorts and other businesses reliant on tourism spend could make a similar move.
Yesterday, he added: “As long as cruise ships aren’t coming into port and we have a limited list of airlines coming into The Bahamas, we will have this problem.
“We depend on passengers coming in — on cruise lines and airlines — [and] as long as Europe and the US (United States) have all these restrictions, this will continue.
“It’s a lot of stress on people who want to travel.
“So, until that eases up, we will have this situation.
“I think everyone is waiting to see how soon these restrictions will be relaxed in Europe and elsewhere.”
Amid the height of the pandemic, unemployment was projected as high as 40 percent, though the Department of Statistics has not validated the figure via its expected Labour Force Survey.
Since November, and in the months that followed, sectors of the economy reopened and The Bahamas tourism was relaunched.
The reopening of major resorts, namely Baha Mar and the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, saw a return to work of hundreds of employees, but many continue to wait to be called back to work.