by Kareem Smith
Less than a week after declaring it was too broke to pay, The Club Barbados Resort and Spa is now again promising to deliver thousands of dollars in severance owed to more than 150 former employees as soon as this Friday.
In a letter copied to the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), the Chief Labour Officer, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), the company’s general manager Caroline Gallichan-Hurley informed workers that the West Coast establishment had secured the necessary financing to deliver the outstanding payments “immediately”.
Details of the dramatic about-turn were delivered to the hotel workers as they were at Solidarity House filling out severance payment forms from the NIS in hopes of securing their monies from the state-owned social security agency.
“As of today, all former Club Barbados employees have received their accrued vacation pay, notice pay, and 25 per cent of their severance pay. We have been working hard to obtain the funds needed to pay the remaining 75 per cent of your severance pay, and we are pleased to advise that we have now secured financing that will enable us to distribute your final payments immediately,” stated the letter, dated November 24.
“To confirm, we will be making your final severance payments directly from The Club Barbados. We have notified the NIS that we no longer require NIS financing, as we have secured alternative funding,” the General Manager further advised.
Former workers whose surnames begin with letters A through M have been invited to collect their final cheque on November 27, while those with the surnames N through Z have been told to do the same on December 2.
Gallichan-Hurley went on to assure the ex-workers that they were “sincerely” and “greatly” appreciated for their role in making The Club a “wonderful” and “successful” hotel prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred, we would all still be working, smiling, and making Barbados’ tourism the best that it can be. The pandemic put The Club and our entire region into crisis mode, and the challenges have been significant,” she added.
The decision follows two days of sheer frustration expressed by the former workers in the form of protests at the Sunset Crest, St James property last Wednesday, and again at the BWU’s Harmony Hall headquarters on Tuesday, following a meeting with the union’s General Secretary Senator Toni Moore on Friday.
Last Monday, The Club informed Deputy General Secretary of the BWU Dwaine Paul that it could not pay the remaining 75 per cent which it had previously promised to deliver by November 21.
That decision was taken even after The Club refused assistance through Government’s Barbados Economic Sustainable Transformation (BEST) programme that would have kept workers employed. Citing the economic fallout from COVID-19, the resort promised that the NIS would “soon” pay the severed workers, further angering those who were expecting their payments in time for Christmas, with bills mounting and children to feed.
During a press conference on Saturday, Moore, flanked and supported by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, BHTA Chairman Rudy Grant, and NIS Chairman Leslie Hayne Q.C., broke her silence and condemned the resort’s actions.
At the time, Haynes promised that the NIS would deliver the monies around Independence and leave no stone unturned in an effort to recover it from The Club.
The saga even attracted the attention of longstanding trade unionist Senator Caswell Franklyn, who urged the Government to pay workers their money after accusing the administration of enabling the “unscrupulous” hoteliers.
Moments after receiving the news, one worker told Barbados TODAY she was reluctant about celebrating after being carried “all around town” over the last few days.
“We had to go to Solidarity House today to fill out information for the NIS so that the Government could pay us, now this letter has come out. Who should I believe? This feels like a mess and we have to wait and see what is going on,” the axed worker said.
Efforts to reach officials from the BWU have been unsuccessful. Meanwhile, BHTA Chairman Rudy Grant indicated that he had not yet seen the correspondence from The Club.