Hotel Tower reneges on promised wages to laid-off workers – union

Hotel Tower has reneged on its promise to pay off workers their salaries and benefits and now says its first obligation is discharging debts.

As a result, workers will have to wait a longer period for payments.

Workers’ union representative Sherwood Clarke told Stabroek News yesterday that during a meeting with hotel owner Salim Azeez and his attorney, Marcel Bobb, the workers were told that the hotel’s first obligation was to the bank, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL).

However he stated that the workers became enraged as they felt they were being wronged.

“The workers get vexed and there was a breakdown in the meeting, the workers did not take that news well,” he said.

It was after they expressed their views on the new developments that the Tower official in-formed that as a means of pacifying the workers, he will give them their owed salaries. But that they will have to wait until the hotel sale is completed before they could be given the outstanding amounts for years of service.

Clarke said that he hopes that today, when the time arrives for those payments, there would be no more excuses.

A source close to the hotel had told this newspaper that the hotel is being sold at a price tag pegged at over US$10M.

As part of that sale agreement, workers had to be laid off as the new owners stated that they would not be taking over the past responsibilities of the company, nor do they want the current employees. The buyer has already made that deal and has paid over US$1M, which will go towards the payment of all outstanding debts the company has, including owed wages and salaries and severance.

This will be paid to the 67 workers by the end of July. Having a clean financial slate and no liabilities, the new owners will then, at the beginning of August 2014, make a deposit of another US$3M to the current hotel owner’s account. This will pave the way for the requisite transfer of property, after which the final US$6M will be paid and the transfer completed.

On May 23rd, the hotel abruptly closed and employees protested after they were told through an anonymous phone call that letters were at the front counter for them. They said when they collected their letters, they learned that day was the last day of work for them as the hotel was closing. They continued their protests in the days that followed.

The hotel then released a statement on May 27th, explaining its abrupt closure by saying that business had declined dramatically in recent times and it assured that assets would be liquidated to pay outstanding amounts to its employees.

Azeez had met with the union on May 28th and had proposed that workers return to work for one month unpaid until he was clear of his financial crisis. The union rejected the proposal and Azeez left and returned on May 30th with another option which was accepted and a deal was brokered.

The agreement was that workers be given two options-to take a severance package and give management one month to pay it off or to accept a payment of all back wages and salaries and resume work. Twenty-one workers took the latter option while 24 took the former.

On June 2nd, Stabroek News was told that the 21 employees turned up for work as promised and were given a partial payment of $9,500 each. However, they had to leave the premises as not only were they not given all their money but GPL had not reconnected the power supply to the building. Workers had begun cleaning the hotel but this was limited as electricity was needed.

Stabroek News understands that some $7.8M is owed to GPL by the hotel, over $100M to the bank and the sum for GRA is unclear.

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