BHCAWU concerned removal of testing on arrival protocol puts workers at risk
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the Atlantis Resort prepares for its December 1 reopening, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said some engineers were expected to return to work this week.
Though he could not provide figures, Woods said the return of those engineers was a positive sign the resort was preparing its rooms after previous reopening dates were pushed back several times due to COVID-19.
“We understand some workers are going back to work in some areas of the hotel as early as tomorrow in different departments; some in the maintenance department, which signals something is getting ready to happen,” he told Eyewitness News.
“…With persons in the maintenance department going back to work that means there is work now. You are going to start to prepare the rooms; check to see how the rooms are; and if any work needs to be done in these rooms and then I guess the next thing would be to see housekeepers because there has to be some preparation of the rooms.”
However, Woods said the limited dialogue between the union and management has bordered on “disrespect”.
He said as a result workers have largely been in limbo for months.
Atlantis closed its doors in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“People tend to disregard the unions’ involvement and participation whether or not we bring anything to the table, but at the end of the day we represent the workers of the hospitality industry, which is the number one industry,” Woods said.
He continued: “Because a lot of these things, a lot of discussions are happening outside of us, we only could go based on what we see and read in the papers.”
Woods also expressed concern about the removal of the rapid antigen test on arrival into The Bahamas and the risk to hoteliers, taxi drivers, and tour operators, who he said can interact with guests for at least four days before they are tested on day five of their stay.
The BHCAWU president said in instances where an employee contracts the virus as a result of the interaction with an infected guest, the matter should be treated as an industrial incident with benefits from the National Insurance Board to defray costs.
He said: “The removal of it could possibly lead to the spread or the increase in persons coming in and being affected, the workers I’m talking about.
Brookfield Asset Management Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bruce Flatt confirmed Friday the hotel will reopen with a “bubble concept” and test all its guests upon arrival.
“We’ve now negotiated with the government of The Bahamas to have a bubble,” he said during an appearance on ‘Bloomberg Front Row’.
“We’re going to test everyone when they arrive and we’re going to charter planes, and we’re flying people in starting December 1, so we will be taking people there.
Atlantis has been shuttered since mid-March amid concerns about the safety of reopening amid rising cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas and other key markets.
Eyewitness News reported last month the resort on Paradise Island had available bookings as of December 1.
In internal minutes, Atlantis President Audrey Oswell advised the team the resort would open by year’s end and operate under a new environment-controlled regime, known as the “Atlantis bubble”.
Flatt said he believes during the winter months Atlantis can expect an “amazing number of people” to visit The Bahamas, noting “there aren’t that many options”.