By NEIL HARTNELL AND YOURI KEMP
The Lyford Cay Club yesterday confirmed it will close at month's end, and terminate around 150-160 staff, as it "moved up" a $40m renovation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exclusive western New Providence property, in a letter to staff, said the planned closing had been moved up to March 29 from May 8 as a result of the virus. it does not plan to fully re-open until November 2021, and has sent employees notice that their contracts are being terminated.
Graham Hastedt, the Lyford Cay Club 's managing director, told staff in the letter: "In the almost 61 years since Lyford Cay Club opened its doors, we have experienced remarkable success, thanks to our unparalleled, talented and dedicated staff, faithful partners and our remarkable members and guests.
"Now, The Bahamas and the rest of the world are faced with a period of unsettling uncertainty. As the global community struggles with the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the safety and welfare of our staff, partners, members, guests and Bahamian citizens are our first priority and, as such, the difficult decision was made to move up the closing date for the renovation from May 8, 2020, to March 29, 2020."
He promised staff that they will receive financial payouts in line with both the Employment Act and now-expired industrial agreement with the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU).
"The weeks ahead are certain to be unsettling and trying, but we hope that these disbursements will help you all care for your families and remain safe, especially during this difficult time in history," Mr Hastedt added.
"Some Club operations may continue in a limited capacity and require staffing. Other operations may resume as the emergency regulations are eased, or lifted and the renovation project progresses.
"As circumstances return to normal, the club intends to revert to its renovation and operational plans. At such time, there will likely be opportunities for employment for which we encourage you to apply."
Darrin Woods, the hotel union's president, told Tribune Business that around 150-160 employees will be impacted by the Lyford Cay Club's closure. "They were supposed to close for renovations o=in May but they moved the date up because of what was happening," he added.
"They are trying to close by the end of this week some time. The 150-160 employees are going to be severed because the club is closing for renovations. They're moving to pay everybody off and are looking to open by next year November. Some parts are going to re-open during the renovation, so we were told, and they're going to bring some people back in the immediate future once this thing lifts."
Mr Woods continued: "We're working through the details. We have been in negotiations with them for some time. We pretty much was involved with the negotiations all the way through. We were able to get more benefits than they [the staff] were initially entitled to
"They were entitled to the notice, they have gotten an ex-gratia for persons who make less than the minimum wage of $280 and below. They got some additional money and, for each five-year tenure, they got additional money.”
“The original agreement was a $1.2m payout package, but we have to get the numbers on this last round with the additional benefits we negotiated. We have to do this by individual based on the year."
Explaining the need for the closure, the Lyford Cay Club said in a statement yesterday: "The Lyford Cay Club has not undergone any major renovation for 20 years, and its infrastructure is 60 years-old.
"In order to continue to meet the needs and expectations of its members and their guests, we have no choice but to undergo these improvements which for the most part will render segments of the facilities inoperable for up to two years.
"Once we are given the all clear, we will proceed with this investment of over $40m, demonstrating the membership’s continued commitment to the club’s long-term sustainability and measurable contribution to the country’s economic well-being, which will be especially needed in times such as these.”
The property added: “In February of this year, the club’s management advised the minister and director of labour, and the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU), that as a result of the scheduled closure, it would be constrained to undergo a redundancy exercise in May.
"Club management also informed the minister and the union that it would make every effort to lessen the impact of its closure on its employees, and are working with the union and the Department of Labour throughout the exercise. Both the union and the Ministry of Labour have been notified of changes to the scheduled exercise.”
Meanwhile, other New Providence resorts have also confirmed their closure as they move to align operating expenses with an environment in which there are no tourists or revenue income.
The latest is the RIU Paradise Island, which in a note to staff on March 24, said: "Due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Bahamas and the world are faced with the safety and well-being of our staff and guests as our top priority.
"As such, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations until further notice beginning on March 24." Tribune Business was unable to reach anybody at the RIU Paradise island yesterday despite trying multiple times. Around 300-400 staff are thought to be impacted.