None of the two dozen or so Crystal Palace Casino workers who took part in the recent „sickout“ at that establishment has been fired, nor has any sort of disciplinary action been taken against them, according to Baha Mar senior vice president Robert Sands.
Mr. Sands spoke with the Journal recently to address some of the recent allegations levied against management of the Crystal Palace Casino and him specifically by Bahamas Hotel Managerial Association President Obie Ferguson.
In the wake of the recent Superbowl, it was disclosed that 25 casino workers called in ‘sick.’ The action did not affect the casino’s operations, according to Mr. Sands, who was quoted as saying that the hotel was reviewing its options in regard to that action.
Among Mr. Ferguson’s allegations was an accusation that Mr. Sands told casino workers at a meeting he had with them subsequent to the Superbowl sickout that if they were dissatisfied with the conditions of their employment, they might consider finding another job.
That, Mr. Sands said, was not the case.
„My exact words were, I believe, we look forward to a continuous relationship with all our employees who wish to work with us in transforming the tourism and gaming industry to our mutual benefit,“ he said.
„Now, how persons interpret that, is another matter.“
Mr. Sands asserted that anyone at the hotel who participated in an illegal strike, or any illegal industrial action, would be terminated.
The executive was at great pains, however, to point out that since the casino workers are not unionized, they therefore could not take industrial action and were therefore not liable to termination under those conditions.
He asserted that BHMA President Ferguson had sought to cloud the issue by claiming to be the representative for the casino workers. The middle managers at the Radisson Cable Beach Resort are the only workers Mr. Ferguson represents legally.
According to Mr. Sands, Mr. Ferguson may indeed speak for the casino workers, but since he only has a legal agreement to represent his bargaining unit at the Radisson, he could not legally call for the casino workers to take industrial action.
Mr. Sands did acknowledge that he had reviewed the situation.
„We have reviewed the situation, and those workers have [absolutely not] been terminated, nor has any action been taken [against] them. The only point I would say is that our Employment Act is very vague in terms of its definition of industrial action. There is nothing that speaks to sickouts, go-slows [or] work-to-rules,“ he said.
„And certainly, we need to be an advocate for change in addressing this particular section of the act, because a number of persons hide under this particular loophole.“
The hotelier added that Cable Beach Resorts had had the benefit of good legal advice as to its options in terms of action that could have been taken against those employees involved in the sickout, and against any who participate in illegal industrial action.
„We’re still on very firm and good legal ground at the moment [in] that we have not breached any law,“ he said. „Nothing that we do is knee-jerk.“
„We’re too large a company to be doing things that are not within the guidelines of the law [or things that] would suggest that we are not aware of the rules and regulations of employee law that are in place in the country.“
Mr. Sands also addressed the suggestion that by supposedly overstaffing the resorts, management had somehow „diluted“ the staff’s ability to work full weeks. According to Mr. Sands, current staffing levels have been impacted by the number of available rooms.
Hundreds of rooms at the Radisson have been closed for a multimillion-dollar renovation programme, as part of the USD 2.3 billion Baha Mar development.
The executive explained that when staff was hired in all areas, it was based on the fact that the Radisson was a full hotel – not a 300-room hotel, but a 650-plus-room hotel.
„Not having that population of visitors obviously creates somewhat of a challenge in terms of justifying the existing staffing levels that you have during that period,“ he said. „Hence, what has been happening at a number of our hotels – because we had made a decision to absorb staff to bring equity in terms of persons working – some persons are working less than five days.
He said the decision to absorb staff from the Radisson into the work rotation at the other hotels was a decision management made. It may appear, Mr. Sands said, that the hotels have been overstaffed, but that is a product of the fact that the Cable Beach Hotels are in transition.
„It’s had an impact both on staffing and on overall business levels during this particular period,“ he said.
As for the solution to the challenges it appears the resort faces in dealing with some of its less than satisfied employees, Mr. Sands, „The ideal solution is a communication network that allows for management and its associates to dialogue and address their concerns in an environment that satisfies both parties.
„We are trying to advance the condition of our company, but at the same time, we know we will advance the conditions of our associates. It’s a hand go, hand come-type situation. If we are successful our associates would be successful and would benefit.“