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Atlantis Employee: I Was 'Targeted' For Termination

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A former hotel union presidential candidate yesterday alleged he was "singled out and targeted" for termination by Atlantis just one day after the resort re-opened to much jubilation and fanfare.

Dave Beckford, a 25-year veteran of the Paradise Island mega resort's landscaping department, told Tribune Business that hotel executives provided no explanation to justify his release after summoning him to a meeting on Friday morning.

They simply gave him a cheque for all severance pay and benefits due to him, with Mr Beckford voicing fears that he was being "labelled as a trouble maker and anti-management which is not the case".

Asserting that he had been terminated "because I stood up for my rights and those of my colleagues", the veteran unionist said he believed Atlantis was unhappy because he had spoken out several times publicly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While confirming that he had been among those calling on Atlantis to pay full severance packages to furloughed employees, Mr Beckford said that although he participated in the march arranged by Operation Sovereign Bahamas he played no role in organising it.

He also questioned why Atlantis had recalled no members of the landscaping department to work. Suggesting at the time that the resort was using outside contractors, Mr Beckford yesterday queried whether Atlantis was moving to fully outsource this area.

An Atlantis spokesperson yesterday said they were unable to comment on Mr Beckford's case and allegations as they needed to research his complaint more thoroughly. They said a response might be forthcoming today, as the now-former employee said he had been released quietly just as 2,500 of his ex-colleagues returned to work.

"Obviously I was singled out and targeted," Mr Beckford told this newspaper, adding that he was unaware of any other Atlantis workers - including those in landscaping - being terminated at the same time. "I got a call from a human resources representative on Thursday evening around 6.30pm who asked me if I could attend a meeting the following morning on Friday.

"The meeting was attended by Daniel Bonello, their senior vice-president for facilities, a representative from human resources, and the union's shop steward. They didn't allow my attorney to be in the meeting. The human resources representative said they'd heard me, they understood me and they had prepared a cheque because they were terminating my services and didn't need me any more.

"I asked a few questions, like what is the justification, the reasoning, for this? They gave me no explanation as to why they were terminating my services; just that they didn't need them. They just wanted me to sign for the cheque."

Mr Beckford said Mr Bonello responded with words to the effect: "What's the problem? Isn't this what you were asking for?" - a seeming reference to his earlier call for Atlantis to pay full severance pay to furloughed workers - when he did not sign for the cheque instantly.

"I did express my views and feelings as to what was happening in landscaping," Mr Beckford recalled. "For 25 years I was a dedicated employee. I served as a shop steward and chief shop steward. I had a good working relationship with Karen Carey, the senior vice-president of human resources, and other human resources representatives.

"I believe I was targeted because I stood up for my rights and the rights of my colleagues and what was happening in landscaping. I thought from March I should have been working as a senior employee in landscaping. Maintenance needs to be done.

"One of the reasons I stayed in landscaping despite low pay, apart from the fact I liked trimming hedges and cutting grass, was the joy of making the hotel look beautiful and the joy of hearing the guests say how beautiful it looked. I told them in the meeting that I had wanted to be made redundant because of the way I was being treated as a 25-year employee."

Now having been granted his wish, Mr Beckford added: "It's bittersweet. I'm not angry and I'm not surprised. I'm surprised, though, as a landscaper that the company has not brought anybody from the department back to work as far as I'm aware.

"We were short-staffed from before the pandemic, and I was one who agitated for them to hire more landscapers. They hired two, but continued to engage contract workers as they have done for many years. If you are not bringing back landscape workers, and are hiring contract workers, I have no choice but to think you plan to outsource landscaping."

Voicing concern over his treatment, Mr Beckford denied that he was a union agitator or troublemaker. "I stood up to management when I felt they were wrong, and stood up to the union when I felt they were wrong. I stood up for my rights as an employee, and the rights of my colleagues," he added.

Emphasising that he had been nominated for Atlantis' internal awards, and that he had always reported for work on time and had a "good record", Mr Beckford added: "I think they're trying to label me as a trouble maker and anti-management, which is not the case.

"In my view, Brookfield versus Sir Sol Kerzner, the morale since Brookfield took over Atlantis has dropped. They seem to be more watching the bottom line. They are interested more about profits."

Mr Beckford said he planned to use the termination pay from Atlantis to start his own landscaping business.

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