320 workers going home from fire-damaged hotel
The workers had been kept on by the management of the 300-room hotel after a fire, on February 14, badly damaged the building located in the heart of the capital city’s commercial district. The management was forced to deploy more than 300 guests to other hotels in the city, while the Jamaica Fire Brigade investigated the source of the fire and assessors tried to determine the extent and cost of the damage.
Following a meeting yesterday involving representatives of the local management of the hotel, the receiver and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, which represents the 166 unionised workers of the total 320 staff, it was disclosed that the workers would be sent packing as soon as their leave entitlements were depleted.
BITU Senior Negotiating Officer Ruddy Thomas, confirming the decision after the meeting, explained that the unionised workers will be able to stay on the job using up their vacation and other leave entitlements, while casuals were being sent home from this week.
Asked whether he has been informed when the hotel will reopen, Thomas said that the issue was still unresolved.
The Jamaica Observer understands that the fire at the hotel may have been triggered by an overheated deep fryer in the kitchen. Over 250 rooms filled with guests had to be emptied into other Kingston hotels, after the fire destroyed the ballrooms/conference rooms, kitchen and roof and left the facility without electricity. Two firefighters were treated for burns, but no guests or employees were injured.
An estimate of damage has not yet been concluded, but early indications are that a resumption of full operations could take several months.
The Supreme Court recently threw out a default judgement which had been awarded to RBC Royal Bank, which has taken control of the property and placed it under a receiver, for the collection of more than US$30 million (J$2.9 billion) in unpaid debt. RBC has placed the property on the market for sale. (Observer)