NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Trade Union Congress (TUC) president Obie Ferguson yesterday said the umbrella union plans to take legal action over the phased termination of the remaining employees at the Grand Lucayan.
Ferguson told Eyewitness News that he was ‘taken by surprise’ over the move, and further questioned whether it was consistent with the sale agreement and the law.
The phased separation of employees of the Grand Lucayan Resort began on June 24, according to Lucayan Renewal Holdings chairman Michael Scott.
In a press release yesterday, Scott said the layoffs are a condition of the sale agreement with Bahamas Ports International.
Scott noted the agreement was executed on March 2, adding that under the terms of the agreement the Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited is obligated to complete the process prior to the transfer of ownership.
“The severance exercise follows the complete exhaustion of all vacation leave bonuses, and the National Insurance Board 13-week unemployment benefit, estimated at an overall cost of $1,837,473.01 for one hundred and sixteen (116) employees,” Scott said.
“The formula for the payments to the presently departing employees, some of whom have been employed with the hotel for twenty years, is based upon the same ministerial approved calculation as that of the former employees who received separation packages totaling $6,704,508 under the two voluntary separation exercises held in 2019.”
Scott also pointed out that the 2019 exercises “were fully supported by the Commonwealth Union of Service, Hotel and Allied Workers and the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association”.
Still, Ferguson said: “He (Scott) didn’t say anything to me. We haven’t gone to court to determine whether what he did is consistent with the agreement and the law.
“I spoke to the minister of tourism who is responsible for the corporation and he said he knew nothing about it. Nevertheless it’s in the new papers that people are being laid off. No one is saying you can’t do these things but there is a process.”
Ferguson said: “This caught me by surprise, very much so. It caught the workers by surprise as well. We are going to have to do what we have to do. If you have an agreement in place and your are going to make people redundant the law requires that you consult with the union and notify the mister that is a requirement, to consult and agree on a selection process.”
According to the release by Scott, essential line staff and management staff will remain engaged on a part-time schedule, or as needed basis, until the transfer of ownership.
This will include administration, security, golf course and property maintenance.
Scott continued: “Twenty months ago, on September 11th, 2018, when the imminent closure of the 198-room Lighthouse Pointe was announced by the former owners of the resort, the Government of the Bahamas took possession of the property at cost of $65 million, via the Special Purpose Vehicle, Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited.”
“The staff complement in 2018, stood at 419.”
He added that to date, the Government has spent more than $8,541,981.00 on employee severance packages.
The second phase of the 2020 separations will conclude in July 2020.
Scott said: “The Administration’s pre-determined strategy was intended to save jobs; stabilize the operation; and to immediate market for sale to a reputable operator, the premier 1250-room beach front property, inclusive of three hotels, 18-hole PGA rated golf course and 20,000 square feet casino.
“At the completion of the global marketing initiative, Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited executed an Agreement for Sale with Bahamas Ports International, a joint venture company established by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the ITM Group.”