The Tower Hotel remains closed as power has not been restored to the building and employees who opted to remain on the job will have to wait until tomorrow to see if they will be paid outstanding salaries.
“They could not start working for two reasons one is GPL (the Guyana Power and Light) has not restored the lights yet and workers who turned out Monday were only paid a part payment of $9,500 each,” President of the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) Sherwood Clarke told Stabroek News yesterday.
Clarke said his union met with the workers and on Monday they had begun cleaning the hotel but this was limited as electricity was needed.
The workers and Tower Hotel management had reached an agreement last Friday and were given two options. “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,” Clarke had explained on Friday.
Yesterday, he informed that 21 workers, who opted for the payment of outstanding salaries and to return to work were paid $9,500 each and were promised by the hotel management that the rest of monies owed will be paid off June 5th.
He said that the union is “50% optimistic 50% pessimistic” that the hotel will be reopened for a long period but is hoping the workers are paid their due.
On May 23rd 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 then released a statement on May 27th explaining its abrupt closure 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 last 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 and returned last Friday with another option.
It was at the Friday meeting that a deal was brokered and the protest action called off.
The union had explained that those workers who took the severance package offer could no longer work with the company and would have to seek employment elsewhere.
Further, he had said that Azeez informed the union that he has new financiers who will be managing the hotel from Monday and that GPL would have the power to the hotel reconnected. Sources told Stabroek News that up to yesterday the new promised management had not visited the hotel.
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 on Main Street 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.