Union rejects Tower Hotel proposal over pay

The Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) yesterday rejected a proposal from part-owner of the Tower Hotel, businessman Salim Azeez that workers return to their jobs until he is able to pay them because he is in a financial crisis.

“We had a meeting today with the hotel owner, Salim Azeez where he gave us a sad story asking that the workers resume work until who knows because the bank was coming down on him for foreclosure and this and that …we rejected it. Pay off all old debts and then we discuss (anything else),” President of the CCWU, Sherwood Clarke told Stabroek News yesterday. Efforts by Stabroek News yesterday to contact Azeez for comment failed.

The Hotel had released a statement on Tuesday explaining its abrupt closure on May 23rd and saying that business had declined dramatically in recent times and assuring that assets would be liquidated to pay outstanding amounts to its employees.

“In recent times, the Hotel has seen a dramatic decline in business and despite the best efforts of management; the hotel was still unable to meet certain financial obligations… While the Hotel remained asset rich, there was insufficient liquid cash available to management to finance the day to day operating expenses of the hotel,” the statement read.

Executives of the cash-strapped hotel had planned yesterday’s meeting with the union representing laid- off employees and it was expected that outstanding pay would be the key issue.

“Management did not have the liquid cash to cover the payroll and as a result employees’ salaries were not paid…steps are being taken to liquidate assets to cover these outstanding salaries owed to employees within a month,” the company said in the statement.

Tower, which has struggled for business in recent years, had been on the market since March but there have apparently been no takers and mounting bills saw power to the hotel being cut last week.

Yesterday, Clarke said Azeez discussed restarting the business, informing that his lawyers were currently in talks with the Guyana Power and Light Company. He then asked the union to have its members resume work so that funds could be generated, a demand the union said was not acceptable.

“He wants the workers to resume work because the bank gave him some more time to pay the mortgage but that isn’t cutting it for us. We say pay off what you owe them and maybe they can resume work,” Clarke stressed.

“He said that we will meet again tomorrow (today) and we said okay go get another proposal and we talk so that meeting is now set for tomorrow noon,” he added.

Last Friday, the hotel abruptly closed which saw employees venting their anger and frustration after they were told through an anonymous phone call that letters were at the front counter for them. They said when they collected the letter it stated that that day was the last day of work for them as the hotel was closing. They continued their protests on Saturday.

Azeez along with US-based businessman James Manbahal, Bharti Persaud Misir and Varendra Shiwratan are the last known owners of the hotel.

Hotel Tower first opened its doors in 1866 on the site of the present Guyana Post Office. In 1910, it was re-sited to its present location under expatriate ownership. In 1946, the property was acquired by a Guyanese/ Barbadian family, the Humphreys, along with 50 other shareholders and re-named Hotel Tower Ltd.

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