Labor Troubles Cloud Sandals Royal Bahamian Closure
PHOTO: The Sandals Royal Bahamian resort is one of the company’s oldest properties. (Photo by Brian Major).
Caribbean resorts routinely close during the summer “low” season to undertake renovations. But there is nothing routine about the recently announced three-month closure of the Sandals Royal Bahamian resort in Nassau, which is in the midst of an increasingly ugly labor dispute.
Earlier this month Sandals Resorts International (SRI) officials informed travel agents via letter that the popular Sandals Royal Bahamian property would close between August 15 and October 13, “due to circumstances beyond our control.”
Bahamas government officials were also caught by surprise based on a statement made by Shane Gibson, the country’s labor minister. Gibson said the ministry of “did not learn of Sandals’ plans to close” until the August 2 letter was “leaked” to media. Gibson called the closure “illegal” In local news reports after learning 600 staff positions would be terminated with the closure.
“We have never had a major employer in this country proceed…in making hundreds of employees redundant without first meeting with the ministry of labour,” said Gibson in a Nassau Guardian article. Gibson said he expressed the hope that Sandals would lay off the employees instead of making them redundant in an August 3 meeting with Adam Stewart, Sandals’ CEO.
The closure follows a recent history of labor troubles at the property. A trade union official said this week he file a writ in Bahamas Supreme Court, accusing SRI of “union busting” and “unfair dismissal.”
But there are no signs SRI officials are reconsidering their position. “In accordance with local law, during the period of closure team members at Sandals Royal Bahamian were terminated and the Sandals Resorts team will immediately begin to re-screen and re-interview all present staff along with potential new recruits,” said SRI officials in a statement provided to TravelPulse. “Staffing levels will return to 750 employees upon the resort’s reopening.”
The statement adds, “The screening and re-hiring processes to engage the resort’s full complement of 750 staff are currently underway. This will also involve the SRI team carrying out extensive training of talents, to guarantee full mobilization upon re-opening and thus ensuring the company’s award-winning services are consistently maintained at the highest level.”
The Nassau Guardian report says SRI officials found the 70-year-old property required more than cosmetic upgrades following a recent review. SRI officials did not elaborate on the work, saying instead, “The repairs and upgrades which forced the resort’s closure on August 15 are being fast-tracked at an estimated cost of $4 million and are to be implemented within 14 weeks."
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