By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Grand Lucayan resort was yesterday said to have begun the “phased” termination of its remaining 208-strong workforce as it readies to complete the property’s sale to the ITM Group/Royal Caribbean joint venture.
Michael Scott QC, the Grand Lucayan’s chairman, declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business but well-placed sources confirmed that the process of permanently laying-off workers had begun in anticipation of closing the deal with the duo’s Holistica entity.
“They’re in the process of being sequentially laid-off,” one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “It’s phased. It will be phased over a couple of weeks. The government is looking at closing the deal soonest in July, and this is part of a phased termination process.”
This newspaper was informed that the terminations had begun yesterday, although the initial number of workers impacted remains unknown. The source said such moves are customary when hotel ownership changes, with either seller, buyer or a combination of both agreeing to pay due severance and benefits to staff so that the new proprietor can start with a clean slate.
Tribune Business understands that the Board of Lucayan Renewal Holdings, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) that currently owns the resort on the government’s behalf, had recommended the termination process start and was only waiting for the government to give the go-ahead.
Mr Scott himself last week, in an interview with this newspaper, confirmed that the lay-offs were likely to be “staggered”, and said: “We’re trying to get the Holistica deal to close within the next month. There’s no point to any further extensions. They need to get in place and, when the economy is fully recovered, they should be able to commence construction and get on with it.
“I’m told they’re gradually putting all their ducks in a row. When we coalesce, both sides, on a final date all the other pieces will be worked out. We’re trying to push to get them [Holistica] to get the Hutchison deal concluded. I understand there are one or two minor derivative points to be sorted, but we’re close overall.
“I can’t say definitely when and how, but we’re close to getting this concluded. When I’ve done my duty on the severance, it’s no longer my headache.”
Obie Ferguson, president of The Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association (BHMA), which represents the Grand Lucayan’s middle managers, yesterday told Tribune Business he had received a call from one worker informing him of the terminations but said no official confirmation had come from the Government.
He said he had reached out to Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, who had promised he would check into the matter and report back to him. Mr D’Aguilar, who is off-island, gave the same response when contacted by this newspaper and did not come back before press time.
Mr Ferguson, meanwhile, voiced displeasure that the Grand Lucayan had seemingly neglected to consult with the management union before taking action. He suggested the resort was in danger of making the same mistakes as the Gaming Board, which was recently criticised by Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles for failing to follow “clearly set out” employment law procedures when it dismissed 24 staff.
“I was told by one of the staff today that the Grand Lucayan has decided to terminate workers,” Mr Ferguson said. “I made contact with the minister, and he told me he was not aware of it and would get back to me. I have had no official confirmation from the minister, and until I hear from him or somebody who has the authority to terminate those workers I’m not going to treat it as live.
“I hate to speak on gossip. According to the Prime Minister, all public corporation workers are required to return to work on June 29, and I expect the hotel workers who have been furloughed to report then. I would have thought they would have contacted the union. I’m the president, and I have not been informed, and the vice-president in Grand Bahama, he’s not been informed.
“If they’re downsizing in phases the union has to be involved,” he added. “Maybe they should read section 26 a) of the Employment Amendment Act 2017. They should read that, and read the Gaming Board decision.”
Justice Charles found the Gaming Board had failed to adhere to modern industrial relations practices requiring employers to be candid and forthright with staff as it never showed how those workers were “chosen to be made redundant”.
She ruled that the Gaming Board had failed to comply with both the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) industrial agreement, which governed the impacted line staff, plus the 2017 reforms to the Employment Act that mandated “consultation must take place” with the affected workers and their representatives when more than 20 are being terminated.