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Tourism staff fear for their futures

Staff at the Department of Tourism are still concerned about their futures, despite Government assurances that no employees will be made redundant when the department is disbanded, it has been claimed.

And Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert has also suggested that the switch to a new Tourism Authority was a “fiasco” because Government had failed to follow guidelines allowing for a “transitional phase” between the abolition of the department, and the creation of the authority.

Last week department staff were told that legislation to create the authority is to be tabled in the House of Assembly this month, but the transition could take a further six months to complete.

Staff will be expected to carry out their duties until the authority takes over responsibility for them, however, while some employees will be given the chance to move with their jobs, there is no guarantee that all 42 staff currently employed by the Ministry will be offered new contracts with the authority.

Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell insists that jobs in other ministries “will be made available” for anyone not hired by the authority.

Yesterday Mr Furbert said he had spoken to some staff who were still concerned about their futures.

“I have no problem with the principal of a Tourism Authority,” Mr Furbert said. “But my challenge to Shawn Crockwell and [Tourism Authority chairman designate] David Dodwell, is that they should be treating staff better than they are being treated now — they shouldn't be just tossed out not knowing what's going to happen.”

Mr Furbert said he understood that the department could start shedding jobs as soon as next month — but the authority would not be in a position to recruit new staff until senior managers had been hired.

He suggested that a CEO would need to be appointed to develop the authority's “game plan”, but other staff could not be taken on until that strategy had been developed — resulting in months of uncertainty for many staff.

“The first thing they should have looked at was hiring a CEO, because it is the CEO who will set the strategy for the authority — they will be the one who will set the agenda and have some idea as to how many staff will be needed,” Mr Furbert said.

“So the first thing that the board should have done was to appoint a CEO, but they haven't done that yet. So you can't be moving staff over to the authority when it doesn't have a CEO.”

Mr Furbert also accused Mr Dodwell of ignoring a consultant's report that recommended a 12-month transition period between the two bodies.

“There's still a lot of concern out there and the main reason for that is this thing really should have been thought out better,” he said.

Mr Furbert questioned how Government could guarantee jobs in other departments for staff not taken on by the authority, when it had previously raised questions about inefficiencies within the Civil Service.

And he also doubted claims that a new authority would be free from political interference, pointing out that it would have to be funded at least in part, by Government.

Last night Mr Crockwell said the OBA was committed to doing ‘what is right for Bermuda' and said that there was a ‘solid transition plan' in place.

“The OBA Government is committed to establishing a Tourism Authority with the independence to turn our tourism industry around,” said the Minister. “We will lay the statutory framework for the Authority in a few weeks and have a solid transition plan which will be implemented over the next six months.

“We will not get distracted from the opposition which failed to do the right thing for Bermuda when it was in government. We will remain focused and do what is right for Bermuda.”

The Bermuda Public Service Union is understood to be monitoring the transition to ensure that staff jobs are protected.

BPSU General Secretary Ed Ball earlier confirmed that no agreement had been reached between the union and Government over new terms and conditions, but the process was ongoing.

“Employers have a right to discuss any matter with their staff, however, there is a formal process that must be followed,” Mr Ball said.

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Published September 05, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 05, 2013 at 1:14 am)

Tourism staff fear for their futures

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