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Former Baha Mar workers may get jobs in new resort

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: May 14, 2013

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Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) officials are working to reverse a clause which prevents scores of former Baha Mar workers from seeking employment with the company before its December 2014 opening.

Baha Mar terminated 140 workers from the Wyndham Nassau Resort in February, claiming that decreased business volume was the driving factor.

According to Baha Mar’s deed of release obtained by The Nassau Guardian, any employee upon signing is “barred from seeking or obtaining employment” with Baha Mar until 18 months after his or her release.

BHCAWU General Secretary Darren Woods yesterday said the union and Baha Mar Senior Vice-President of Administration and External Affairs Robert ‘Sandy’ Sands are making progress on a resolution.

“Talks are still ongoing as it relates to the government and us and [Baha Mar] but we did have a conversation with Mr. Sands who indicated that they were going to take that out of the release employees would have signed and the persons will be able to reapply,” Woods said.

“Now we need to see how far that goes because you could say one thing but in fact do something else.”

Those fired employees worked in the food and beverage, housekeeping, engineering and water sports departments, Woods said.

“Those employees, to the best of our knowledge, were not problem employees because a problem employee would not be on the job for 20 and 30 years.

“A problem employee would be in and out. They are saying now they have a difficulty in filling positions.”

BHCAWU executives have said they will do what is necessary to convince Baha Mar to rehire those workers in its new resort.

Tension mounted between both sides after Baha Mar’s management announced in March that there could be a labor shortage in several keys areas by the time the mega-resort opens.

Those areas, include engineering, golf maintenance, food and beverage and front of house.

Sands has insisted there is a labor shortage for technical and specialized management positions.

The mega-resort is expected to need in excess of 4,500 employees in less than two years.

When asked about the clause in a recent interview, Sands said he needed to check the document before responding.

But for Maria Bethel, 42, a former housekeeper at Baha Mar, the reversal of the clause could be the difference between financial security and ruin.

Bethel, a mother of two, is one of the employees who signed a deed of release four months ago.

She told The Guardian yesterday that at the time, as her bills continued to pile up, she saw no other option but to sign.

She received a $7,000 package for her 13 years of employment. According to Bethel, those funds are all but depleted.

“My bills were hitting me so I did what I had to do,” she said. “In order for you to receive the money, you had sign the contract.

“Now things are dreadful and going to National Insurance is not easy, but I am hurting.”

Asked whether she expected to be transferred from the Wyndham to Baha Mar, Bethel said, “I thought that was going to happen but it’s clearly not.

“From what I understand my name is on a list of the 140 people that they let go to ensure that they are not re-employed,” she said.

“I should have had first preference. I want to apply because I love what I do. I got great response from my guests.”

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