One hundred and forty-nine staff members, some of whom were supposed to spend their first day on the job today Monday after leaving their former jobs, have been cut deepest by the abrupt closure of three upscaled restaurants.
With mounting bills, families to support and children to feed, employees of Cin Cin by the Sea, Hugo’s Barbados and Primo Bar and Bistro, all members of Chaps Restaurants Limited are now facing an uncertain future about when and how severance will be paid to them.
The confused and frustrated former employees vented their frustration while attending a meeting at the company’s Canewood, St. Michael offices around 4 p.m after being informed of the company’s closure while preparing this morning for another day of work.
Hours before, Chief Executive Officer Joanne Pooler explained the company’s decision not to inform workers of the closure was to ensure they maintained the high quality of service expected of them. The workers still don’t know how much money they will be getting beyond last week’s pay.
“I just took on three guys who quit their jobs to come to Hugo’s last week. All last week they could have told us not to let these guys quit their jobs and come to Hugo’s. This is very unprofessional and this has hurt me to the core,” revealed an assistant manager at the Sand Street, Speightstown restaurant.
He explained that some of the company’s directors had not even been informed of the decision.
In a memo sent to staff and printed on the front of each restaurant, Pooler explained that the decision to close was based on declining revenues due to overall guest spend, increased government taxes and “unfair” duty-free tax concessions given to restaurants attached to hotels but not to standalone restaurants.
“It was six in the morning [on Monday]. I just woke up. How am I to tell all of my staff that they are out of a job and we hadn’t been informed formally. It’s just chaos… total chaos,” the assistant manager told Barbados TODAY.
In the parking lot of the Canewood offices, a 25-year-old man stood aimlessly in the parking lot. He told reporters he had just quit his job at KM2 Solutions as a Data Entry clerk and was eager to start work on Monday as a host at Hugo’s.
“I am disappointed, a little angry. I am pissed because I have other things that I have to do like paying rent, child support, and bills. I really don’t know what to say about that. I just have to wait and see,” he said.
Casey Collins, 33 also resigned from his previous job and officially started as a waiter just last week. He explained that he was the only employed person in his household and bills had been mounting.
For other more longstanding employees, rumors had been swirling for as long as two years. But such questions were often quelled by the CEO, they said.
During the day, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds blasted the company’s top brass for its treatment of workers as he walked out of a meeting at Cin Cin along with Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle.
At the time, Symmonds indicated that the development caught the Barbados Government by surprise, but expressed hope that efforts would be made to minimise the dislocation caused as a result.
“In all of this, I think it is important for us to understand that labour matters in this country and it leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouth if you create a situation where there is no prior notice given and people just come to work to find out there is no job and that is the part that I will not accept because tourism cannot be about the investor only. It has to be about the people who are making it work on a day by day basis.
“So we have made it very clear, even if we can come to some form of cooperation going forward, there has to be an understanding that that type of approach to investment is not going to be acceptable in Barbados,” he said.
Barbados TODAY understands workers were informed that the company needs 700,000 to pay severance and is contemplating filing for bankruptcy so it can liquidate its assets. [email protected]