Workers of the Tower Hotel and their employer have reached an agreement with promises of pay that would see some of them returning to work on Monday while others have opted for severance and employment elsewhere.
“An agreement has been met. Workers have two options that is, take the severance and give management within one month to pay it off or option two, pay off all back wages and salaries and they will resume work Monday. Some took the severance, some took the pay,” leader of the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union, Sherwood Clarke told Stabroek News yesterday.
CCWU is the union which represents about 90% of the staff at the Tower Hotel.
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 and the union had said that they would not relent until the workers were paid their due.
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.
One of its owners, West Demerara businessman Salim Azeez met with the Union on Wednesday and had proposed that workers return to work for one month unpaid until he was somewhat clear of his financial crisis. The union rejected the proposal and Azeez left promising to return yesterday with another option.
“We had a meeting today (Wednesday) 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 had told Stabroek News on Wednesday.
Clarke informed that the union yesterday again held a meeting Azeez and the industrial action was called off after they brokered a deal.
He explained that those workers who took the severance package offer could no longer work with the company and would have to seek employment elsewhere.
“Those who took the severance will no longer be working with the company but it includes years of service outstanding leave passage allowance and 5% service charge. All the workers are happy,” he said.
Further, he explained that the union and the management will be working out the calculations of the payments for the workers and will meet again next Friday at which time all the financial tabulations would be corrected and agreed upon.
He said that Azeez informed the union that he has new financiers who will be managing the hotel come Monday and the Guyana Power and Light will have the power to the hotel reconnected.
“The hotel reopens on Monday. Salim gave all assurance that the electricity will be reconnected to the building and he will be back in business… He said to us that he has a group of investors who will be coming down by Monday to invest in the hotel and they have a management structure on a way forward,” Clarke stated.
“He said they will have a strong operation team which will bring it back to the standard we all know it to be,” he added.
Theresa (only name given), an employee of Tower told Stabroek News that she opted for the severance package. She however did not give her reasons for the choice.
Another employee, who asked not to be named, said that she was also taking the severance because she did not believe that the hotel could be saved.
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.