0

Casualties Of Covid Crisis: Baha Mar Begins Mass Layoffs Just As Flights Resume

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamians were yesterday warned to brace for "more significant casualties" in the tourism industry as Baha Mar started terminating hundreds of workers.

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas "will suffer more victims" from the COVID-19 pandemic than less tourism-dependent nations as the Cable Beach mega resort yesterday informed the workers it is releasing via phone calls.

Baha Mar did not respond to Tribune Business questions seeking confirmation on how many staff will be terminated, or what percentage of its workforce that represents. However, Darrin Woods, the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union's (BHCAWU) president, said 328 workers had been released from its Melia Nassau Beach property alone.

While Baha Mar's other resorts are not unionised, Mr Woods said he had heard the number impacted by the terminations at those hotels "ranges from 1,200 to 1,300", although he was unable to confirm that.

Those numbers are in line with Tribune Business's exclusive revelation on June 15 that the $4.2bn mega resort, owned by Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, planned to terminate up to 20 percent of its staff - a figure that corresponded to around 1,100 to 1,200 workers.

While Baha Mar's move comes as little surprise given that it first flagged the lay-offs two weeks' ago, it still represented one half of yesterday's 'double whammy' for the Bahamian economy and tourism industry given that Atlantis, its mega resort rival, revealed its own re-opening date has been pushed back three weeks to July 30.

"It's very unfortunate in that more Bahamians have become victims of this COVID-19 pandemic," Mr D'Aguilar told Tribune Business. "I'm sure it's very disconcerting and troubling for the employees who have received their termination notices.

"I think while it's unfortunate it was probably expected given the swift decline in the tourism industry worldwide. This pandemic has affected hotels, airlines, excursion and tour providers, car rental companies... everybody."

Pointing out that LIAT, the airline that connects 15 Caribbean nations via inter-island flights, is to be liquidated due to COVID-19's catastrophic effects on its financial well-being, Mr D'Aguilar warned that The Bahamas needed to ready itself for potential corporate failures and mass redundancies in its tourism industry.

"There are going to be significant casualties from this pandemic, and especially in countries that are so dependent on tourism such as ours," he told Tribune Business.

"The United Nations' World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has noted that the tourism industry is pretty much at a standstill, and there are travel restrictions in 100 percent of tourism destinations and, in 72 percent of destinations, the borders are closed.

"They're expecting [global] tourism to be down in the second quarter by 60 percent to 78 percent. The Bahamas is obviously, being so tourism-dependent, going to suffer more casualties in an industry that is beginning to return in a real sense having been at a complete dead stop from the latter part of March 2020," Mr D'Aguilar added.

"I'm sure Baha Mar will not be the first. I'm sure more of the tourism sector will experience shocks like this until we get through this pandemic. We're not there at all yet given the rapid increase in cases in the US, which is our core market."

Mr Woods, the hotel union's president, yesterday said it was watching nervously to see whether Baha Mar's staff terminations cause "a domino effect" leading to more lay-offs throughout the Bahamian resort industry.

"I feel like a fighter in the 12th round who is just receiving low body shots," he told Tribune Business, revealing that "in excess of 300" workers had been released at Baha Mar's Melia Nassau Beach property.

"The numbers are around 328 or thereabouts," Mr Woods added, noting that the Melia had around 700 staff in total. This would mean the terminations at that property exceed the 20 percent threshold, with the lay-offs sparking a "mixed" reaction among those affected.

"Some think they could have waited a while, but management took the decision that the needed to do what they needed to do," Mr Woods added. "They're going to do renovations in short order, and of course there's COVID-19.

"With Baha Mar, Melia and the Hilton, it's now a wait and see whether there's a domino effect that moves throughout the industry. So far they've been the trend setters. The other hotels, including Sandals, have said they are opening later. We have to see what that represents.

"US cases continue to climb, with 40,000 a day being infected. That's going to cause a scare for the travelling public and those of us receiving them."

Baha Mar, in its statement yesterday, echoed Mr D'Aguilar by describing the hospitality and tourism industry as "the hardest hit" sector in COVID-19. Drawing on research by Oxford Economics and the STR data analytics provider, STR, it said the global sector is projected to lose 100.8m jobs in 2020.

With eight of 10 hotel beds forecast to be empty worldwide, and revenues down by 50 percent, Baha Mar said it had taken "the difficult, but necessary, decision to implement staffing reductions to adequately align with projected business levels" ahead of its planned October 2020 re-opening.

It confirmed that it was "communicating directly" with impacted staff, who would all receive due severance pay and benefits in accordance with their legal entitlements. The mega resort also pledged that it would bring back as many terminated employees "as possible once business returns to pre-COVID-19 levels".

That, though, is likely to be at least two years away. Baha Mar suggested that it acted now because the 13-week, or 90-day, deadline where employers have to determine whether to make furloughed employees fully redundant had arrived.

The Government had previously extended this until the end of July, but Baha Mar's statement said: "On June 29, as the 90-day period ended, it was necessary for us to take the incredibly difficult step of reducing our staff across Grand Hyatt, SLS, Rosewood, Melia, Casino and Baha Mar’s shared services.

"We are in the process of communicating directly with each of the associates affected by this decision, and we are here to help guide all impacted through the next steps. All affected associates will receive severance pay in accordance with the law."

It added: "All affected associates are eligible for rehire, and we look forward to bringing back as many associates as possible once business returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.

"With the ongoing construction and expanded resort offerings starting to launch in fall 2020, Baha Mar continues working hard to create additional opportunities for the Bahamian job market."

Baha Mar reiterated that it had ensured all employees received 40 percent of their base pay, in addition to National Insurance Board (NIB) benefits, plus maintained health and other insurance coverages for them since the property's March 25 shutdown.

Those workers remaining will receive 30 percent of their base pay for another 90 days and the continuation of insurance coverage.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 1 month, 1 week ago

Well you guys opening will only accomplish one thing.....

A much longer, much more severe lockdown.

What are you dummies thinking??????

Planes out of Florida????? Are you all insane????

1

Dawes 1 month, 1 week ago

Don't worry we will now find out how well this country will be able to withstand 10's of thousands of people being unemployed. This is but the first of many layoffs. I hope you don't complain when the taxes are raised on those lucky enough to still have a job (i assume thats you and that you aren't in the tourist industry).

3

tetelestai 1 month, 1 week ago

But Dawes, why do you want Americans to fly here now, when even US states are blocking each other from flying in or forcing mandatory 14-day quarantine. What good is opening up, if your population turns into Arizona, or Oklahoma, or Florida, or Texas. As to your tax suggestion: It is not perfect, but, yes, that may have to happen, but really there is no better alternative?

1

Dawes 1 month, 1 week ago

I want them as i realize we won't be able to survive for too long without. Whether we like it or not we decided to be a tourist nation, we are unable to change our economy quick enough to benefit people. If there is no vaccine in a years time and the US is still having cases are you saying that we should still be closed? And if so are you ok with unemployment being over 50% and all the issues that will bring?

1

tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

Dawes is naturally suffering from that deep down most frightful thought that it has all been built, i.e. our tourist industry, but they, i.e. the tourists, will not be coming in sufficient numbers any time soon, possibly years if ever again.

0

Dawes 1 month, 1 week ago

Well if the hotels aren't open of course they won't come. Will be interesting to read your complaints going forward when the economic impact starts to be felt. Though i am sure you won't realize that it is due to tourists not coming, which is what you wanted.

0

IslandSplendor 1 month, 1 week ago

COVID-19 isn't going anywhere, soon, and the country already has a 40% unemployment rate. Continuing to keep the borders closed is not economically sound. At this point, the best thing to do is learn to live with the virus until a vaccine is available. Follow protocols: Wear your masks, keep safe distances, wash your hands (or use sanitizers) and constantly clean surfaces.

5

ted4bz 1 month, 1 week ago

So what you trying to Say is, those who are dead from covid didn’t wear mask, wash hands, social distant and stay at home? Also what do you know about the vaccine that you are promoting, did you bother to investigate it? NO, NOBODY DOES! Please stop propagating information you have not researched.

0

tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

Just how stupid can Minnis and D'Aguilar be in reopening our borders today to travellers from the US when even the major hotel operators in our country have annouced the postponement of their re-opening dates. And to add insult to injury, even all of Europe has shutdown its borders today to travellers from the US for an indefinite period. Minnis and D'Aguilar must rank high among the two dumbest politicians our country has ever had. Mark my words, in the coming weeks these two dim wits are going to be personally responsible for having caused the deaths of many elderly and more vulnerable Bahamians with underlying medical conditions.

This pig-headed decision of Minnis and D'Aguilar to pre-maturely open our borders today to American visitors is the height of irresponsibility and the two of them should not go unpunished for the serious consequences that will surely follow. Their very foolish decision is tantamount to a serious and very deliberate criminal act that greatly endangers the lives of many of our people. And for what? Nothing but a few tourist dollars from a few dare devil tourists, some of whom are bound to be laden with Covid-19 even though they may show no symptoms on arrival. This is sheer insanity and madness!

1

tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

It's indeed most ironic that D'Aguilar and Minnis should now get royally fooked by Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises who are the owners of Baha Mar.

Minnis has already allowed the Bahamian people to get royally screwed once by the Communist Chinese when Hutchison Whampoa suckered him into buying the Grand Lucayan property, which investment by Minnis has since proven to be a $150+ million boondoggle for the Bahamian people. Is Minnis now contemplating having our country purchase the Baha Mar property if Fook Enterprises elects to fook him but good?! (LOL)

It certainly seems the very evil and ruthless Communist Party of Red China are at least ideally positioned to extort from Minnis whatever they want. Does this mean that we, and generations of Bahamians to come, are going to have yellow massas?

0

TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Yesterday's newest but failed attempt by the gone rogue politically appointed Speaker to shout for the House constabulary guards to woman's handle the member MP for Englerston Constituents the duly elected MP Glenys Hanna Martin, might even shake more COVID-19 scared the bones of every resort and tourism operators across The Colony's 700 Out Islands and Cays.
Nod Once for Yeah just maybe the House constabulary guards, should've been dispatched to gather the never could get he self-elected red coats politically appointed senator from out of the upper red chamber to stand to answer before the PopoulacesOrdinary's at large House, Twice for No?

0

TimesUp 1 month, 1 week ago

This decision must have been a desperate last resort. It seems apparent that the need for U.S dollars has overridden the risk of loss of life.

A few dollars will come in but....

As one of the most unhealthy countries in the world we are undoubtedly going to be hit hard!

Community transmission will begin again, out islands will be unable to cope, eventually Nassau wont be able to airlift enough patients.

Local economy will go back into lockdown.

There is no learning to live with this in our country, outside of Nassau it is impossible to provide serious raspatory care to any significant amount of people.

Ultimately Bahamians will die from this decision.

0

TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

One nod ma comrade Timesup, it's an absolute that the PMO did do the body count risk assessment arithmetic whereby ultimately many amongst PopoulacesOrdinary at large will become tourism and visitor COVID-19 positive, some goin' dead from this July 1, 2020, PMfive decision.

0

GodSpeed 1 month, 1 week ago

Bahamians are going to die either way unfortunately.

0

geostorm 1 month, 1 week ago

No Bahamians will die from "lack of food and water"and not having the financial resources to take care of themselves.

0

tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

The Governor of California just ordered the re-shutdown of 75% of that state which, if it were a country, would have the fifth largest economy in the world. Things are now so bad in so many states in the US that other states are imposing quarantine requirements on persons coming their way from the hot spot states. Not a good sign at all.

The very negative trends have been there for all too see for a few weeks now and there was absolutely every reason for Minnis and D'Aguilar to postpone the re-opening of our country to travellers from the US. It was already clear that the few dare devil Americans who venture our way will be adding little hard currency to our economy in relation to the Covid-19 exposure risks and related costs. Keeping our borders closed to US visitors for at least the month of July was a no-brainer but Minnis and D'Aguilar couldn't even get that decision right. How do they explain re-opening our economy to a few dare devil tourists on the same day that the EU has closed its borders to visitors from the US?

We are looking more and more like the banana republic nation that many people around the world now claim we have become. I guess it's time for us to now try grow banana trees and pick a few hands of bananas whenever we can as part of our new diet. For those of us who can fish, we can only hope and pray the Dominicans and Cubans leave us with enough fish in our territorial waters so that we can enjoy the occasional seafood meal.

1

tetelestai 1 month, 1 week ago

You do realize that the hotels have yet to open, right? And that, Baha Mar laid off approx. 1800 people. Flying in tourists today makes no sense at all, none.

0

tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

There will be no tourists visiting the Bahamas from North America in sufficient numbers any time soon; perhaps years from now if ever again.

0

North69 1 month, 1 week ago

Reckless to open the Bahamian borders with Florida haemorrhaging infections...opening the infection floodgates to the Bahamas will desolate their islands..

1

TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

I know of no comrades individuals who don't understand that the longer it takes for their elected representatives to arrest The Colony's wiped out economy the wider the suffering spreads with worsening impact across all social and income groups and levels the PopoulacesOrdinay at large POAL. Nod Once for Yeah there's a no better time than now to share with the global communities that It's Better in The Colony means more to us the PopoulacesOrdinary at large than just the spoken mere five words, Twice for No?

0

John 1 month, 1 week ago

Countries like Canada and U.K. have blocked flights from the US. A spokesman for the Europeans say Americans, despite their abaundance if resources, mismanaged the Corona pandemic. The president sent out mixed messages and they never acted as a United country to combat the virus. When New York was under the gun, other states distanced themselves from New York. Now Nee York doesn’t want people coming from Florida, Texas, Arizona California to New York. Some states are just now enforcing the ‘mask’ law and some businesses are refusing to serve persons who are, yes ARE wearing masks. Dr Fauci says it’s drinking in restaurants and bars is the major cause of most spikes in Corona. So what are most people coming to tTye Bahamas to do? If people don’t follow the rules and guidelines in their own country will they do so when they come here? Do were all the lockdowns and curfews here in vain?

0

tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

The irony of the name United States when there's absolutely nothing united about them at all. Those whacko blue dem states seem determined to end Trump's presidency even if it means destroying the United States as a country and in the course of doing so destroy the Bahamas too as unnoticeable collateral damage.

Hell, we even had the whackos in our own country wanting to tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of Government House without our very own Trump-like Minnis speaking out to condemn such foolishness. A country and a people untethered from parts of their history, no matter how deplorable some of that history may be, is a country and a people set adrift with no direction or ability to learn from the past. You will never see the Jews wishing to be unanchored from the holocaust, and with good reason.

0

ted4bz 1 month, 1 week ago

how did a virus in the first time of history manage to break out all over the globe, all regions, all weather, all at once? Naturally, that’s not the nature of viruses. Agencies had to place it there and waited for the ripe time to announce we have a global problem. It’s about to happen again, RIGHT HERE because we wantMONEY! Look, only Americans are coming, no one else. And, yet Americans are not only restricted from traveling To countries that don’t trust them, they are also restricted from travel within their own nation. Why are they here? To give us money or more problems? Don’t let money kill y’all? All you need is food and a smart security plan until this fiat virus plan wears away. Mask, social distant, stay at home and a vaccine will not save the day. Up your common sense, immunity, intellect, herbs, food and security. That’s the plan.

0

Sign in to comment