Amid ongoing economic uncertainty and pending public sector job losses, thousands of Barbadians today descended on the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre from as early as 6:30 this morning seeking seasonal employment with the five-diamond Sandy Lane hotel.
By noon when Barbados TODAY arrived, long, snaking lines were still visible on the outside, stretching all the way to the end of the eastern side of the building.
At the same time, several job seekers were on the inside going through the recruiting process, with even more waiting on the ground floor.
The west coast hotel is seeking to hire seasonal workers for various positions in food and beverage, culinary, front of house, stewarding, retail and housekeeping.
Sandy Lane spokesman and Chief of Security James Alleyne told Barbados TODAY while the scheduled start time for the recruitment drive was 9 a.m., it had to start earlier given the numbers who had gathered well ahead of that time.
“We had this morning from about 6:30 in the region of about 4,000 or 5,000 [people] so far literally traversing through,” he said, as Sandy Lane team members and officers from the Royal Barbados Police Force were on hand to ensure a smooth and orderly process.
“We have managed to get them through slowly but surely and treat them with the Sandy Lane aspect of how we are. So all in all it has been going well for us . . . . Progressively we have been reducing the flow and it is going quite nicely without any problems. No hassles,” Alleyne reported as thousands braved scorching sun and occasional light showers – some shielding themselves with umbrellas – as they waited patiently to be called inside.
After entering the building, they were given a damp towel to help them cool down as they prepared for the interview process. The prospective employees also had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with some aspects of the hotel’s operations through a video presentation and some displays.
Alleyne could not immediately say how many workers the hotel was seeking.
However, the turnout was clearly a sign of the times, with job opportunities seemingly dwindling.
Just last week, one of Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s key economic advisers, Dr Kevin Greenidge, indicated that as Government embarks on the restructuring of state owned enterprises, at least 1,000 workers would be laid off in the first instance.
The move comes as the Mottley administration, which assumed power in May, prepares to enter into a formal International Monetary Fund programme, having already implemented a $1.2 billion austerity package on June 11, with a view to addressing a ballooning $16 billion in debt and a deficit of 4.3 per cent of gross domestic product as at the end of June.
With the economic situation as it stands, Alleyne was not surprised by the high turnout.
“Yes, we expect a large number of people to be here to try and find work. That is understandable. We can only do what [we can] from Sandy Lane’s point of view. We try our best to employ as many people as we can within reason. It is just that at this moment we are doing [employment drive] for seasonal individuals and then we can go from there really,” he said.
Barbados TODAY also spoke to some of the jobseekers, the majority of whom said they were unemployed and fresh out of school. Others were employed but seeking to change jobs.
Cheresh Tash told Barbados TODAY she had been unemployed for a couple months but would do odd jobs from time to time in various sectors, including in agriculture and security.
“I finished [studying at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology] in May and I was doing a job attachment at another hotel in the landscape department, but it was full. So I sent them [Sandy Lane] a letter and I am just here waiting. So, meanwhile, I am looking around for work,” Tash said.
One man told Barbados TODAY he had been out of a job for about three years and was hoping to get employment with Sandy Lane.
As she sought shelter from the sun, 20-year-old Shoncarra Clarke told Barbados TODAY: “I am unemployed now.”
“I left school last year and have been searching for a job since then. I studied Sociology and Literatures in English at the Barbados Community College,” she said, adding that she heard about the job fair from a friend and also saw it on social media. firstname.lastname@example.org