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Hoteliers fall short of commitments made under BEST Programme

Hotels and other properties that participated in the Barbados Employment and Sustainable Transformation (BEST) Programme are being criticised for not following through on actions for which they were given financial and technical assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Dwaine Paul said on Tuesday that while the programme was intended to inject much-needed support into the tourism industry, little work was actually done to facilitate staff training and other commitments made by some hoteliers.

“From the onset of the programme, we looked at training as a tool that we needed to have executed, and a number of the properties simply did not deliver. We lost that valuable time in terms of being able to develop the talent to reinforce things that we needed to do, to keep the product, as the hoteliers would call it, up to par, and to be able to compete in the market.

“It seems as though the hoteliers want everybody to provide everything for them, and they keep everything that they get. So the issue of training and failing to train people was being put at the foot of the Government for not training people when you were resourced to train, your wages bill was being supported for you to train, and you just had to plan it.”

The BEST Programme was established by the Government to stimulate the transformation of the tourism and direct tourism-related services sectors and to protect employment in the sectors.

The initiative, for which the Government pledged $300 million to help support the tourism sector in response to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, included a component for comprehensive training of workers.

Paul said that after two years, establishments had little to show as far as that was concerned.

“We said to them you could have coordinated around your entire sector because the entire sector was closed. Yet, almost two years on, you have very little to show, and as soon as the product was opened back, you [are] now arguing that your workforce is below par and you are not able to compete. The question is, what have you really done to make sure that they are up to standard?” the BWU official said.

He also had a retort for business owners who would try to hold employees accountable for the lack of training.

“You want to blame the workers for not participating when you chased them away. Some hotels closed without notice to their workers and believe as soon as you open back they [workers] should come back. [When] you can’t get them back now, you figure you have the right to try to go overseas and bring more people here, as opposed to fixing what you have at home,” he said.

Many properties under the BEST Programme were to implement green initiatives at their sites, but Paul said that had not come to pass either.

He said the union intended to make sure any and all concessions promised to workers would be provided and warned that failure to do so would trigger an acceleration in efforts on the part of the union.

“The season for that sector is well on its way and we will be ready for when the season comes. I’m just putting that out there for all and sundry . . . to know that they have a timeline in terms of getting stuff that we need to have corrected within that sector. One thing that I can tell you is that workers within the hotel sector have grown very wary of false promises [and] idle conversation,” Paul said.


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