“UNFORTUNATE”: Cabinet ministers lament Atlantis redundancies; Foulkes says govt will do all it can to assist

“UNFORTUNATE”: Cabinet ministers lament Atlantis redundancies; Foulkes says govt will do all it can to assist
Atlantis Paradise Island.

Unionist: Atlantis redundancies a long time coming

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Atlantis’ decision to make 700 employees redundant was yesterday branded as “unfortunate” by some Cabinet ministers, with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes assuring that the government would do all in its power to ease the burden and assist those impacted.

Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell in a letter yesterday noted significant losses incurred by the resort during the pandemic had forced it to drastically cut costs in “nearly every corner”, including its 7,300-strong workforce.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes.

Foulkes told reporters yesterday: “For those 700 workers and their families, this is indeed a very sad day. There is a lot of uncertainty with respect to the employment situation in The Bahamas now and I know those families must be going through a lot of worry right now.

“The government wishes to empathize with those families and say we are doing everything in our power to ease burden and render assistance to those employees.”

According to the minister, the government will assess whether its unemployment assistance program, which expires at the end of June, needs to be extended.

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, commenting on the redundancy exercise, said: “Obviously, it’s very unfortunate for such a substantial downsizing to occur.”

He noted, however, “most of these employees had been furloughed anyway” and “if there’s a good side to the story, I think there were a number of persons who wanted some finality to their relationship with Atlantis”.

Second Vice President of the Bahamas General Workers Union Dave Beckford.

One such individual was Second Vice President of the Bahamas General Workers Union Dave Beckford, a former hotel union presidential candidate who had been among dozens of workers agitating for redundancy pay for months.

Yesterday Beckford said  Atlantis’ decision was unavoidable and should have happened a long time ago.

The 25-year veteran of the Paradise Island mega resort’s landscaping department who was terminated back in December told Eyewitness News: “I thought it should have happened a long time ago but I’m happy they have finally made the decision.

“No one is happy about being made redundant or seeing redundancies, layoffs, but I don’t see how it could have been avoided because business is not what it used to be.

“I thought hotel workers should have not been furloughed for so long. The benefits they were getting while furloughed was not sustainable. That’s why I suggested that Atlantis pay the workers a percentage of their salary. There is the pension fund, the health and welfare fund and the employee assistance fund they can tap into.”

Beckford said the prolonged furlough had left a “bad taste” in the mouths of many workers.

“I know that many workers are hoping that they are in the 700,” said Beckford.

“Atlantis has nearly 8,000 employees. Hopefully, they will not have to do this exercise again, but I thought this should have happened a long time ago.

“People may say it’s not a lot of money, but when you can’t put food on the table or find a dollar, it’s a lot of money. We’re in a period where there is still a lot of uncertainty.”

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar. (BIS PHOTO/KEMUEL STUBBS)

D’Aguilar noted that Atlantis’ significant employee count, including many long-tenured employees, meant its severance offering would be significant.

“A lot of companies furloughed their employees to mitigate the negative impact of having to sever people, but Atlantis has gotten itself in a position where they can offer severance and pay people the money that they are owed based on their years of experience,” he said.

But he expressed optimism “that tourism is going to bounce back as the year progresses”.

Foulkes also noted 3,500 Atlantis workers to date have returned to full-time employment, adding that the government has not received word of any impending terminations from any other resorts in the country.

He also encouraged impacted employees to register with the Labour Department’s employment exchange, noting: “Every day, we have businesses that reach out to the exchange for new hires, so there are opportunities within the economy.”

Foulkes further noted that two “big prospects” — being the Pointe development and Baha Bay, Baha Mar’s water park offering — are looking to hire 600 to 700 people respectively.