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Ex-Fairmont waiter says treatment was ʽinhumaneʼ

The Fairmont Southampton Hotel (File photograph)

A veteran waiter at now-shuttered Fairmont Southampton forced to sleep rough after he was ordered to quit staff accommodation ten days ago said the way he was treated was “inhumane”.

George Uy, who had worked at the resort, for a decade, said he spent a night on the streets after he was evicted from his room.

Mr Uy added he had “begged” to be allowed to stay in his room an extra three nights before his flight back to the Philippines last Tuesday.

He said he had only $10 left in his wallet and ended up sleeping in the Hamilton bus terminal.

He added he asked hotel management for an advance on his redundancy payment – not due until November 20 – to tide him over, but was refused.

Mr Uy, who has worked for the Fairmont chain for 30 years, said: “Instead of helping, I was treated inhumanely, stripped of my dignity.”

He said he only had $10 in his wallet and ended up sleeping in the Hamilton bus terminal.

Mr Uy added he had been told to stay with a colleague, but the workmate was already struggling and he declined.

He said: “At the end, I just asked my colleague if I could temporarily use his car for my things as storage until the next day and I would sleep on the street, for it was about 10pm and I didn’t want to disturb anybody.”

But he said he had changed his mind and stayed with a former colleague after police spotted him at the bus terminal and told him to find shelter.

He said staff were “shocked” to be notified by e-mail on October 20 that they would have to leave their rooms at the hotel by the weekend.

But Kieran MacDonald, the hotel’s general manager, insisted sufficient notice was given to staff to staff who had to quit their on-site accommodation ten days ago, according to the hotel’s general manager.

Mr MacDonald said that staff had been notified on September 23 that the hotel, hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, would have to close in a month.

He added: “We made several attempts over the next month to reach out and continue reminding them.”

Mr MacDonald said: “I can assure you that all of our in-house colleagues had somewhere to stay when they left the hotel.”

He said he could not discuss individual employees.

But he added that the workforce were advised to settle their affairs and leave the island early in the pandemic when it became obvious that air travel would be shut down after the Covid-19 pandemic tightened its grip on the world and that air travel would be shut down.

Angry staff picketed the hotel on October 23 and said the delay in their redundancy payments had left them short of funds.

The hotel is now closed for an 18-month refurbishment and about 750 staff, 500 of them Bermudian, have been made redundant.

Mr MacDonald said: “Our outlook from the beginning was not looking good.

“We were having messages from the Government that they had little appetite for paying the unemployment benefits for work permit holders.

“What we said at the time was, you’re not required to go home. We made it clear their positions were not changed, and should the hotel reopen, they would be called back as required.”

Mr MacDonald said the “vast majority” of foreign staff opted to leave but about 30 decided to remain at the hotel, where they were given rooms with meals at the rate of $34 a week.

He added: “We felt it the right thing to do at the time. We were fully supportive.

“However, we continued to meet with colleagues to encourage them to leave the island.”

Expatriate workers were included in the unemployment benefits scheme, which paid up to a maximum of $500 a week.

But Mr Uy said he sent money home to settle debts and had been unable to save.

But Mr MacDonald said: “They were in an exceptional position to save. If they chose to spend it or send it overseas, that is their concern.”

He added: “Where I lost a little of my support was with people saying they had no money and were destitute. It just does not add up.

“For someone to say, sorry, I have no money, I think it’s unacceptable when not only did they have money coming to them from the Government, but they have got a redundancy forthcoming.”

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Published November 02, 2020 at 12:27 pm (Updated November 02, 2020 at 12:26 pm)

Ex-Fairmont waiter says treatment was ʽinhumaneʼ

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