BAHAMAS – Gibson blasts Sandals as 600 lose their jobs
NASSAU – Labour Minister Shane Gibson said his ministry was given very little notice by Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort of its decision to make more than 600 employees redundant yesterday so it could conduct renovations.
However, Gibson’s suggestion was denied by a source connected with Sandals who told The Tribune that high-ranking officials of the resort informed Prime Minister Perry Christie of the intention to make employees redundant.
“It was with deep disappointment that the Ministry of Labour received a letter from Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort, informing us that the contracts of more than 600 employees would be terminated today as a result of Sandals’ closure,” Gibson said during a communication in the House of Assembly Monday.
“My ministry first learned about the closure on Tuesday, August 1, with the rest of the country when information was leaked to the media and printed in a local newspaper. I requested a meeting with officials from Sandals on August 3.
“We met with Chief Executive Officer of Sandals Resorts International Adam Stewart as well as members of his executive and legal teams. During that meeting, we asked them to consider laying employees off instead of making them redundant. They told us they would consider this suggestion and get back to us within 24 hours. However, after not hearing from them, my ministry wrote Sandals a letter on August 4, requesting the resort’s latest position and further details on the proposed closure. “Sandals has yet to respond to my ministry,” Gibson added. “Instead resort representatives wrote the attorney general and copied the Ministry of Labour on Friday, August 12, informing us of their decision.”
Gibson said the government has been advised that the resort will be closed for eight weeks as it carries out renovations because hotel officials said the work could not be carried out in the presence of guests.
Nonetheless, the resort, he said, indicated that it would retain 44 Bahamian managers, 13 work permit holders and 44 line staff members to maintain the property during the closure.
About 60 other line staff employees will be sent to Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma, Gibson said.
Regarding Sandals’ letter, he said: “That letter did not include the necessary details for my ministry to proceed how we normally do. In fact, we are still awaiting a response to the letter we sent 11 days ago. We were advised that Sandals is demanding that employees being made redundant sign a deed of release. I understand this is illegal, as the law does not require employees being made redundant to sign such a document for redundancy money that they are entitled to. We have never had a major employer in this country proceed this way in making hundreds of employees redundant without first meeting with the Ministry of Labour.
“I am again calling on the National Tripartite Council to move post-haste with updating our redundancy laws, making it mandatory that proper notice be given and consultations take place before moving to make employees redundant.”
Asked by The Tribune about the matter outside the House of Assembly Monday, Gibson said he believes Sandals’ actions are an attack on the Bahamas Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BMAWU), which has several ongoing labour disputes with the resort.