A potential deal between hotels and unionised staff was rejected by the workers in the unionised hotel division, it was revealed yesterday.
Stephen Todd, the chief executive of the Bermuda Hotel Association and the Hotel Employers of Bermuda, confirmed after a union press conference that an “interim set of concessions” had been brought to the group to try and get hotel staff back to work.
The Bermuda Industrial Union’s hotel division held a series of meetings last week with the HEB and ultimately turned down the deal.
Mr Todd added: “It is our understanding that should individual hotel properties wish to pursue obtaining a property specific [memorandum of understanding], that this is something that may be considered by the respective parties.”
Chris Furbert, president of the BIU, explained that while the union leaders could come up with a deal in principle, “any decision made by the hotel team along with the executive is subject to the membership — it’s always been that way”.
Mr Furbert said the HEB had requested an MOU, adding: “We had some concerns about the issues, so we fleshed them out as best we could.”
He said one sticking point was the level of hotel occupancy required for the MOU no longer to be in effect.
But Mr Furbert confirmed that one hotel, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, had independently come to a deal on Tuesday involving workers being paid straight time for rest days and days off, which had been accepted.
Herbert Bascome, the president of the hotel workers division, said: “The MOU we presented to our membership, we really think it should have been accepted.
“Our main concern was to try and get as many hotels back open, so we could put as many [staff] back to work.”
Mr Bascome said conflicting reports in the island’s press had “confused our membership”.
He added: “They have been out of work six months. They’re frustrated. Bermuda is one of the most expensive places in the world.”
Emergency unemployment benefits provided early in the crisis by the Government have come to an end for the majority of workers subscribed to the programme.
Mr Furbert said the last figures from several weeks ago showed “1,700 to 1,900 still unemployed in the hotel sector”.
A supplemental benefit has been offered by the Government for workers still struggling financially — but applicants must apply for help from the Department of Financial Assistance to become eligible.
Mr Furbert faulted the arrangement, saying that financial assistance paperwork was much too complicated, while “simple paperwork” should be in place for the supplemental benefit.
He added: “That’s very frustrating for the workers.”
Mr Todd said last night that a recent survey of BHA members, conducted last week, placed the number of jobless staff at 1,548.
He added: “However, this figure is only representative of our members, and as such excludes those hotel workers employed by the remaining hotel properties who aren’t members of our association.
“It is anticipated that, as further properties announce reopening dates, that the overall number of laid-off hotel workers will continue to decrease as they return to work.”
Both David Burt, the Premier, and Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, indicated earlier in the summer that some work permits would likely be turned down to make way for jobless Bermudians to move back into employment.
Mr Todd said that the BHA was not aware of any work permits being turned down.
He added: “As a key industry, the hotels are seeking to employ as many Bermudians as possible in the key positions that must be filled in order to meet the guest service standards which are required.”