By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHA Mar last night slammed the government for “concocting a sideshow for its own purposes” after the Christie administration accused the resort of being slow to provide necessary information, thus delaying salary payments to the resort’s employees.
Baha Mar also questioned why the Christie administration is not supporting the resort’s developer Sarkis Izmirlian, who has been “victimised” by resort’s general contractor China Construction America, adding that the government’s actions have “sown doubt” about the project’s future.
The controversy came after the government yesterday announced the resort’s staff would be paid today.
However, according to published reports, the government had previously said it had paid the employees last Friday.
“The Ministry of Finance has announced that due to delays in obtaining payroll particulars from Baha Mar, salary payments to Baha Mar employees will be made on Tuesday, July 7, 2015,” a statement sent to the media on Monday said.
Hours later, Baha Mar denied the government’s assertion, stressing that the resort turned over the relevant documents last week only to be subjected to repeated requests for more information.
Baha Mar said: “The delay in Baha Mar citizens being paid is a government of the Bahamas – not a Baha Mar – issue. Baha Mar essentially provided the government over five days ago the information the government requested. Subsequently, the government has kept coming back to Baha Mar continually for more information, even as the government announced in the newspapers this morning that it had made arrangements for prompt payment.
“Each time Baha Mar has provided as quickly as possible the requested information. Baha Mar finds it disgraceful that the salaries due Baha Mar employees have not yet been paid. Baha Mar was fully prepared to pay these salaries in a timely manner having received approval from the US court under Chapter 11 to do so. The government however saw fit, apparently for its own reasons, to participate in the obstruction of this process and has to date been unable to deliver on its promise regarding Baha Mar citizens.”
The statement added: “We urge the government to fulfil this obligation which it said it was assuming for this pay period. It is unconscionable and disappointing that Baha Mar should be forced to divert time and resources away from the critical task of completing construction and opening Baha Mar successfully as a result of the government concocting a sideshow for its own purposes. One truly has to wonder why the government is not fully supporting the one investor – the project’s developer – which, along with the people of the Bahamas, have been victimised by the repeated failures of the general contractor to complete construction on schedule and as promised. The government’s behaviour, simply put, has sown confusion and doubt about the future of Baha Mar.”
The scathing statement released by Baha Mar gives further insight into the deteriorating relationship between Mr Izmirlian and the Christie administration.
It also came hours before lawyers for both sides are set to reappear in the Supreme Court today for a hearing into whether this jurisdiction will ratify Baha Mar’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the United States.
The Tribune understands the government will only pay $2.2 million in salaries this week, representing a two-week pay period for Baha Mar workers. It was initially expected that the government would foot a $7.5 million bill for salaries, Baha Mar’s monthly average monthly salary payout.
A source close to the matter said whether the government will continue to Baha Mar workers is “contingent on the Supreme Court’s ruling” today.
Baha Mar’s position is supported by a letter sent to workers from the resort’s vice-president of human resources and organisational development. In that letter, the official said Baha Mar turned over the relevant documents to the government last week.
“As you are aware, yesterday (Thursday) the government decided that despite Baha Mar’s intention and readiness to process our payroll as usual, they should step in and pay the salaries of more than 2,200 Baha Mar citizens for the period ending July 3, 2015,” the memo said.
“On the order of the Supreme Court we have immediately provided the government with the information necessary to make these payments to you. Unfortunately, this means that whilst the government makes appropriate arrangements, the payment is delayed. We are aware of the difficulties this is causing you and will provide updates on the situation whenever we can.”
Last Thursday, the government announced it would pay the salaries of Baha Mar workers this month in a bid to block them from being used as “pawns” in the resort’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy claim, according to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson said the decision to circumvent the Bahamian court system and file for Chapter 11 in a US court without notice to major stakeholders opened the door for “serious and far-reaching implications” to the country’s sovereignty.
This came after Baha Mar had received the green light from a Delaware bankruptcy court to pay “$4.5m to employees for wages and benefits.”
Pay day for Baha Mar workers was last Thursday,
Baha Mar Ltd, and 14 affiliated companies involved with the mega-resort, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware court last Monday. The resort’s workers were sent home that same day and told to no longer physically report to work as the property goes through its bankruptcy.