NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson said yesterday that the union’s priority concerning the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort is its reopening and the reemployment of Grand Bahamians, and it is less concerned about whether the altered deal is not as attractive as originally negotiated.
“My thoughts principally are to ensure that the hotel reopens,” Ferguson told Eyewitness News.
“I want to ensure that the workers could be reemployed because their employment is critical for their survival, the individual survival and to a greater extent, the larger community of Grand Bahama because a man or a woman without a job has a psychological and a physical effect on them as an individual, and as to their value to their family.
“Once they are reemployed and the hotel is operating, by whomever — it does not really matter — so long as the hotel is operating, I think that would go a long way in doing what is necessary for them and the community of Grand Bahama.”
Eyewitness News reported last month that the board of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited has ordered an independent audit of the deal after there were “reservations” surrounding the restructured proposal for the sale of the resort.
Ultimately, Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd Chairman Michael Scott said he will not sign off on an unfavorable deal and is prepared to explore other options for the sale of the resort.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar had a softer tone on the issue on Monday.
He told Guardian Business on Monday that while Scott described it as such, he would not describe the restructured conditions of the sale as “bad” and said given the climate of the cruise and tourism sectors, he was encouraged the prospective developers were still interested.
Ferguson said he read the comments of both officials and said he does not believe the deal will have an effect on the workers.
“If the objective is for the place to be reopened, it doesn’t really matter whether it is done by the minister of tourism or the chairman, in whatever form they decide it will go,” he said.
“As long as the place is open to cater to tourists, because without tourists you don’t have the jobs, and the workers are reemployed to cater to the tourists, from the association’s point of view it doesn’t matter which one, which view.”
He added: “You can always make adjustments as you go along.”
He said the rate of expenditure was not as significant as originally planned and the speed of the project was not the same.
The government has not provided details on the amendments proposed.
The government purchased the resort in August 2018.
In March, the government signed a heads of agreement with Bahamas Port Investments Limited, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean International and ITM Group, for the sale of the resort and development of a cruise port at Freeport Harbour that was expected to accommodate three ships in phase one, and up to seven ships in subsequent phases.
The plan also included a casino, water park, restaurant and retail center.
According to officials, the final purchase price was $50 million.
Insurance proceeds and concessions included, the deal was expected to be even to the purchase price of $65 million.
The government continues to carry the expense of the resort, though the total cost to-date remains unclear.
More than $10 million was expended during the last fiscal period to assist with debt servicing obligations.
More than 150 employees of the resort were terminated earlier this year as part of the transfer of ownership.
The union took legal action over the decision.
At last report, there were 35 people employed at the resort.