Neal & Massy says sorry
After being publicly raked over the coals by Barbados’ biggest trade union for its handling of Almond Beach Village’s imminent closure and job losses, Neal & Massy has offered an apology.
Gervase Warner, president and chief executive officer of the Trinidadian conglomerate, yesterday told the Almond Resorts’ employee representatives, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), that he was sorry for not engaging the union earlier on the plan that would put 500 workers on the breadline.
Warner, who was back in Barbados yesterday after delivering the dreaded news to the employees of the island’s largest all-inclusive resort two weeks ago, conceded that he “made a mistake”.
“If there is something about this process that I regret it is that we did not figure out a way to do that before the shareholders’ meeting,” he told the media during a briefing at the BS&T training room in the Coles Building on Bay Street in Bridgetown.
Furthermore, Warner said he took personal responsibility for the error of Neal & Massy not speaking to the BWU prior to the announced closure.
“We had a meeting with the unions about how difficult things were – there was a meeting on March 6 . . . . To be honest, we have been hoping this would not happen and working assiduously towards solutions that would avoid this happening.
“We came upon the date when the shareholders’ meeting was coming up and, quite honestly, that was our mistake and I will take responsibility for it personally. And I will publicly apologize to the Barbados Workers’ Union for not having that engagement before we actually did speak to shareholders.”
Warner added: “To us it occurs as inevitable; it occurs as something that we regret – that it had to happen but if there is a mistake that I would say I made, it would be have been in the process of working at the solutions so hard that I didn’t take the time out personally myself to take that step ahead of the shareholders meeting.”
Even though the Neal & Massy boss said the monthend closure of the property was now inevitable even if a buyer was secured today, Warner said he “would welcome the opportunity to engage with the union or any other stakeholders towards finding alternatives and solutions that would stay the closure”.
Adding his voice to the situation, senior BS&T executive Anthony King said Almond Village was operating on a month-to-month financial lifeline from Neal & Massy.
He said, too, the hotel was also under severe pressure from its banker the Bank of Nova Scotia, who extended further financial support only if it was guaranteed interest payment coverage by Neal & Massy.
“We could have reached the point where you couldn’t write any more cheques, you couldn’t pay the staff their wages, couldn’t pay suppliers. You [would have] had guests in the hotel with a whole mess around them. How would that reflect on Barbados?
You have to go about these things in an orderly way, no matter how distasteful it is,” King told the media.
HERE, SEEKING TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT is Neal & Massy president Gervase Warner (second right). From left are Almond Resorts Inc. directors Senator Geoffrey Cave and Anthony King and outgoing Almond chief executive officer and director Ralph Taylor.