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BIU backs $50m guarantee for Fairmont Southampton revamp

Job creation: Chris Furbert, BIU president, speaks at today’s press conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Bermuda Industrial Union yesterday backed a $50m government guarantee for the redevelopment of the island’s biggest resort.

Chris Furbert, the union’s president, criticised the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance for demanding answers from the ruling Progressive Labour Party over the deal.

He said: “It is very interesting – this is the former government asking about a $50m guarantee for the largest hotel in Bermuda and not recognising the benefits of a $50m guarantee.

“If they had recognised it they would have pointed out in their press release the huge benefits.”

Mr Furbert added: “They should have taken into consideration that upon the completion of the renovation it will provide over 700 jobs.

“When we had the airport development deal on the table all you heard Bob Richards and Craig Cannonier talking about is it is going to create jobs.

“The guarantee will decrease the number of Bermudians who are unemployed, it will reduce the number of people who are receiving supplemental benefit payments … and it will increase the airlift into Bermuda which we definitely need.”

He was speaking after Craig Cannonier, the shadow tourism minister and a former premier, earlier this week questioned why the Government had not told the public about the guarantee earlier.

Mr Furbert highlighted the 2022/23 Budget statement that showed that the government had paid more than $41m in minimum revenue guarantee payments to airport operator Skyport.

He said: “It is kind of interesting when the Opposition is calling the Government out for providing a $50m guarantee for all of the huge benefits that it will provide … let’s not forget the need to boost our economy.”

Mr Furbert was asked about the new collective bargaining agreement struck between the BIU and Gencom, the owners of the Fairmont Southampton.

The deal means staff will get higher wages, but their job security will be reduced as management will be able to implement layoffs when the hotel is at 85 per cent occupancy or less rather than the previous 75 per cent threshold.

Mr Furbert said: “Years ago it was 70 per cent then we negotiated it to go to 75 per cent about ten years ago. The workers, for moving that by five per cent, received a one or one and a half per cent pay increase.

“The fact that our members will be subject to layoff at 85 per cent means the risks of them earning less money is there and that is why we negotiated a better wage increase for them.”

Mr Furbert also warned that the effect of the war in Ukraine on the island’s economy could be “devastating”.

He said: “Right now Bermuda is the most expensive place to live. If this gets added on top of what is currently the most expensive place to live, you can imagine what will happen.

“At some point in time the Bermuda Government has to have the political will to look at the cost of living in this country and decide that it is too high. This is just going to make things a lot worse for Bermudians.”

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Published March 05, 2022 at 8:03 am (Updated March 05, 2022 at 8:03 am)

BIU backs $50m guarantee for Fairmont Southampton revamp

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