Ninety-one managerial staff members of Grand Lucayan Resort who opted to take the government’s voluntary separation package (VSP) received their cheques on Thursday, June 6.
Gathering at the resort shortly after 9:00 a.m., managers were paid out in full from the $4 million negotiated by union officials.
The workers accompanied by the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association (BHMA) executives, met with the distributors at Manor House.
BHMA Vice President, Kirkland Russell told this daily during an interview on Friday, June 7 that the distributors passed the cheques to the union and the union issued them to the members. He claimed all of the workers were satisfied and are relieved that the process is completed.
“I can say that the members were extremely pleased with their amount,” Russell reiterated.
“We were able to bridge all the years of service that they would’ve worked, some people up to almost 22 years and we were able to get monies for them for other benefits and so, the members are extremely happy.
“There was a great number of the members who are in the Annuity Plan that Hutchison Development was contributing monies to and we were able to go through that and have the government guarantee those monies that was being held in the Family Guardian account,” he added. “We completed the entire list and the process was very smooth.”
Russell noted that if unions remain unified, a change can happen.
“I have to thank the Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar, who the government placed in February to negotiate with us and we did have a cultural negotiation.
“We made a lot of sense to the government, we did what we had to do for our members and we came to an amicable resolution.
“We completed agreement with Mr. D’Aguilar, he opened himself to us and we have to thank him publicly,” he added.
“We negotiated a package with the government for some 91 individuals, which we started in October, but on the 12 of December we reached an impasse with the board.
“The board decided to create a make it, take it or leave it offer of $2.7 million, but the Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association rejected the offer and we continued to negotiate.”
Russell noted the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis decided since the negotiations were not acceptable to the workers, he decided to take over the negotiations himself leading to appointing Minister D’Aguilar, as the government representative for the negotiations.
“The team of Mr. Obie Ferguson and myself negotiated about six, seven times. we met with the minister and we came up with an understanding and a figure that we could’ve accepted. However, we needed the union’s approval and so, we went to the membership where we presented what we had negotiated to them on April 29 and the members overwhelmingly voted in favour of the package.
“We went back to Minister D’Aguilar to iron out one or two little details and we completed the signing off of that agreement. So, we were just waiting for those monies to be moved from the consolidated funds into the Lucayan Renewal Holding funds, where the cheques would’ve been made and distributed and that happened.
“We set a wonderful precedence as to how these things should be and how things should be completed,” Russell added.
He furthered there is no written law to deal with VSPs and believes it is not necessary to go through the eight months of trying to resolve a matter, because of something that is not constitutionalized.
“I believe that there should be a written legislation in the Employment Act that speaks specifically to voluntary separation packages for employees. How the process is done, set proper standards as it relates to pay out. To add to that there are some antiquated laws in the Employment Act that deals with separation that is ambiguous, especially section 29.
“We need to fix it where we just put the number of years the person worked, is what they ought to be paid and not 12 years. It is not fair for a worker to be working for an employer for 12 years and the other worker work for 20 years and get the same amount. I am talking about the redundancy pays and those are the things we need to fix,” concluded Russell.
Attempts were made to speak with Minister D’Aguilar and Ferguson, however, up to press time this daily was unsuccessful.