From left, union treasurer Samuel McKinney, attorney Pleasant Bridgewater, Commonwealth Union of Hotel Services and Allied Workers President Michelle Dorsett, and Angelique Russell, general secretary, held a press conference to update workers about the government’s purchase of Grand Lucayan resort.
By RASHAD ROLLE
and DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Staff Reporters
AS the handover process for the Grand Lucayan entered a new stage yesterday, government officials assured staff that their employment will be protected.
"Further information will be provided and a full statement will be given by the prime minister in Parliament next week," said Michael Scott, chairman of the Hotel Corporation and the special purpose vehicle established to facilitate the purchase and eventual sale of the Grand Lucayan resort.
That SPV, Lucayan Renewal Holdings LTD, took over the resort from owner Hutchinson Whampoa yesterday, with the sale expected to be finalised on September 21.
In his statement to the media, Mr Scott did not provide details about the terms and conditions of service for the 423 people employed at the resort.
His statement said: "The handover process has begun. The chairman Michael Scott will be meeting with the staff tomorrow morning (Wednesday) in Grand Bahama. This should take place before any statements to the press. Out of respect for the staff and to ensure there is no misinformation the board intends to address the staff in full on all matters before statements are made to the press. Employees can rest assured that their employment will be protected."
Nonetheless, The Tribune understands most employees will be retained and the terms of their employment will be similar to what they previously received. On Monday they received a letter from Lucayan Renewal Holdings informing them that their salaries and benefits will remain unchanged.
Tribune Business reported that some of them will be offered a severance package while others will stay on.
The government has already paid $10m to purchase the resort and will pay another $20m to close the deal. Another $35m will be split into semi-annual $5m payments over three-and-a-half years. When Parliament resumes next Wednesday, a resolution is expected to be moved to allow the government to borrow the money needed to facilitate the resort's purchase.
During a press conference in Grand Bahama yesterday, Pleasant Bridgewater, lawyer for the Commonwealth Union of Hotel Services and Allied Workers, said they have been assured the government will assume the liabilities relating to workers that existed before the takeover. Ms Bridgewater said the union is seeking a substantial amount of money owed to it since 2008, including gratuities and salary increases. She declined to say exactly how much is owed.
She agreed with the government's decision to step in and acquire the resort.
"To avoid the hotel closing and so many people being out of jobs, and a further blow to the economy of Grand Bahama, the government felt they were between a rock and a hard place and made a decision based on the circumstances," the former Progressive Liberal Party senator said.
"I am hopeful based on what the minister of state for Grand Bahama has said that they will do everything to offload the hotel as soon as possible and bring in private owners. At this stage, the union is supporting it because we want people to be working so they can provide for their families."
One employee, Leroy Jennings, hailed the government's take-over of the resort as good news. He said Hutchinson Whampoa showed no interest in the hotel industry.
"They had a hold on the hotel for many years and were doing nothing," he said. "The government had to purchase it because Hutchison did not care about the hotel industry; they were degrading the hotel industry if you look at it. Now that the hotel is out of their hands we can look forward to prosperity on the island of Grand Bahama again."
Last month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said among the Grand Lucayan's three hotels, the Lighthouse Pointe, currently open, will remain open. An assessment will take place before a decision is made about whether to open the Memories property. That property will require renovations after being damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.