A sad situation.
This is how Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James is describing the decision by Coco Reef Resort & Spa to send home close to 120 of its employees for an additional two months, owing to the huge financial losses the company incurred because of covid19.
The affected workers, who gathered outside of the resort’s main entrance on Milford Road, Crown Point, on Wednesday, complained they were given temporary termination letters but no formal explanation from the company’s management.
They regarded the action as disrespectful.
Some of the workers had only returned to work on Monday after being at home for the past three months during the national lockdown to prevent the spread of covid19.
Saying she is not privy to all the facts, Birchwood-James told Newsday she understands the position of the company’s management and employees, given the pandemic’s impact on the island’s tourism sector.
“The big hotels need about $1 million to operationalise – to reopen, and if you are not getting guests, then how do you pay your workers? How do you pay your utilities?” she asked. “It is a sad situation all around."
Birchwood-James said although some of the Tobago hotels have been receiving bookings through the island’s domestic tourism thrust, the spike in covid19 cases has led to a number of cancellations.
“Once the borders are closed, and we understand the reason, it is going to be difficult for the big hotels to open. Hotels like Coco Reef, they have a lot of Europeans and they can’t just rely on locals alone.”
She said the company could have reasoned with the workers.
“It is a very challenging situation for the hoteliers and workers and I agree with them. They have worked many years there and it is not easy for them but, maybe, the conversation could have been a little more welcoming to the workers.
“But, if you employ them and you don’t have money to pay them, then that is a different story.”
Spokesman for the affected workers, De Ann Roberts, said they still have not heard anything from management about the way forward after September.
“No one has made any contact with us. But we are still asking for a meeting with the Chief Secretary (Ancil Dennis) to at least listen to our concerns.”