By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE union representing hotel line staff has said an estimated 75 percent of workers remain furloughed despite an increase in visitor arrivals.
Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union president Darrin Woods said the majority of the 6,000 workers in his union are “wary” of the ongoing pandemic-induced situation while tourism officials celebrate increased visitor arrivals.
Earlier this week, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said that 60,000 non-residents bought travel health visas to visit the country in March, double the number that did so in December 2020. It is believed that the number of travel visas purchased roughly corresponds to the number of arrivals in the country.
The figure for March represents a 92 percent decline compared to arrivals in March 2019, however.
Yesterday Mr Woods said the reported uptick has not translated to the same number of people in hotels.
The BHCAWU represents Atlantis workers and employees at some smaller hotels.
“From our standpoint, and as kind of an estimation, we say as many as 75 percent of persons are still out,” Mr Woods told The Tribune. “Those are the furloughed people, as many as 75 percent and it could be more or less so about five percent either way.”
He added: “The thing is, even with the uptick where are these persons staying, because it’s not translating into rooms per se. They may be staying in smaller hotels and I can only speak for the area we represent. Maybe they are staying in smaller resorts or Airbnb or private homes.
“I think when we talk about the numbers we’d have to get close to the numbers that we’d normally have during this time of year because you know it is the spring break, Easter, and then you’re heading into the summer months where things will really be booming.
“So, while there maybe or is an uptick in visitor arrivals, but where are they staying and so he (the minister) may be talking from a tourism standpoint in terms of visitors arrivals. It translates into something different in terms of room stay and persons going back to work.”
Asked about the sentiments of workers, particularly those who remain furloughed, Mr Woods said many had hoped to be offered separation packages.
“The workers are growing very wary because they want some closure and it’s difficult as long as we are under this Emergency Order which suspends a couple of portions of the Employment Act. They want to know if they are going back to work, then let’s go back to work. There are people who have indicated that, listen, we want to go.
“There was a conversation that was held with the governmental officials to say, listen reach out to the company because we have been trying to do so to say listen if you have persons who want to go, see how best you can facilitate them to go.
“At least it would give them some form of closure and then they could move on.”
It is a position that Labour Director John Pinder said back in February he recommended to some major employers.
At the time he said: “People want to receive their severance pay and probably could make an investment and do something with it, but if this thing turns around sooner than we expect and you get rid of all your qualified staffers and those persons who could provide good service, now you find yourself in a position whereas you have to now find yourself new staff and retrain them.
“Even if the persons who you let go decide they want to find something else and they can’t find what they want and you have to bring them back, there is no guarantee persons on extended furlough will be rehired once the employer has to do that at the same position with the same salary with the same benefits. As long as you are on furlough, they still have their tenure. They still have the same positions and they still have the benefits that they were entitled to.”
Both Atlantis, Baha Mar and other resorts have had to furlough workers due to decreased bookings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.