Lucayan’s $1m staff debt safe

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

The government will assume all liabilities including about $1m in back pay owed to workers at the Grand Lucayan resort in Grand Bahama.

Severance packages are also to be the responsibility of the government once the $65m sale of the hotel in Grand Bahama is complete, The Tribune understands told from two well-placed sources, who were not authorised to speak publicly on the hotel situation.

“Disbursements will come from the government because they are taking all the liability,” one Freeport-based source said.

“What is owed to workers is a considerable sum, about a million or more.

“Asset managers in conjunction with management are in now going through employee rolls,” a second source told The Tribune, “so because this is underway the absolute figure is not yet known.

“But the government is acquiring the liability. Employees were addressed this week along with line staff and management staff at Grand Lucayan and were assured everyone will be dealt with. Anyone who wants packages will be dealt with according to law,” the official said.

When he spoke to reporters yesterday after a tree-planting event at Gambier Primary School in conjunction with Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis pledged to fully disclose the details surrounding the Grand Lucayan’s purchase by the government.

He said: “You will receive all of that on Wednesday. On Wednesday, you will get a communication. You will be informed as to why we had purchased the hotel. It’s our job to keep the Bahamian economy going. That hotel plays a pivotal role in Grand Bahama’s economy and of course it was being negotiated by the private sector.

“The only thing I will say at this particular time is no investor will put a gun to my head. None.”

Asked to comment on the money owed to workers, Dr Minnis replied: “I know what I say with respect to that will be a headline. I will allow what was asked earlier to be the headline.” He was referring to comments he made in response to the murder on Wednesday of Inspector Carlis Blatch, aid-de-camp to the governor general.

Sources have said this back pay may date back to 2008.

This week the hand over process for the Grand Lucayan entered a new stage. In meetings with employees, government officials assured staff their employment will be protected.

“Further information will be provided and a full statement will be given by the prime minister in Parliament next week,” said Michael Scott, chairman of the Hotel Corporation and the special purpose vehicle established to facilitate the purchase and eventual sale of the Grand Lucayan resort.

That SPV, Lucayan Renewal Holdings LTD, took over the resort from owner Hutchinson Whampoa earlier this week, with the sale expected to be finalised on September 21.

Tribune Business reported on Tuesday a “substantial number” of Grand Lucayan’s middle management staff want to take severance packages and leave the resort.

Obie Ferguson, Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, told Tribune Business that feedback received to-date indicated that “a sizeable number” of Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association (BHMA) members would exit if the terms were right after the government formally took control of the Grand Lucayan’s operations.

Mr Ferguson said confirmation of how many want to leave will be known soon, dependent on the completion of a questionnaire to obtain this information from BHMA members.