#Providenciales, December 12, 2018 – Turks and Caicos – A letter issued under the guise of being ‘fair play’ for resort staff at the Gansevoort, was condemned and labelled ‘punitive’ and an apparent retaliation to the implementation of the amended Hotel and Restaurant (Service Charge) Ordinance 2018.
Among those getting that social media circulated letter was Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Employment, Sean Astwood.
“I saw the letter this morning and I immediately contacted the Gansevoort to confirm its authenticity because on first sight of it, I thought someone was actually playing mischief with the company. However, the company confirmed that it is a letter they had issued out to their employees…” said the Minister on Tuesday.
Gansevoort had expected the amended law to come into effect on December 1, 2018 because that was the date announced by the PDM Administration. The letter to staff at the resort, restaurant and spa property was dated November 27, 2018.
On Tuesday, during a press conference aimed at debriefing the public on results of an official trip to the United Kingdom, the Deputy Premier, when questioned about the letter had strong words for the Gansevoort and other properties considering similar tactics in reaction to the service charge ordinance amendments taking effect.
“I have already scheduled a meeting with the owner of the Gansevoort and already verbally expressed my concerns for the content of that letter. Not just for the simple things of uniforms and food but the implications on transference of work permits etcetera.”
Gansevoort Turks and Caicos is actually owned by Wymara Ltd and Stelle Ltd. The letter from the owners informed staff that they would now see salary deductions to pay for uniforms, that they would have to buy their own lunch meals because the complimentary cafeteria would no longer be offered and that areas like the spa and restaurant would opt out of levying the service charge altogether; leaving the size of tips up to the guests.
Gansevoort splits the service charge with management and staff; staff gets 65 percent.
Deputy Premier Astwood said upcoming discussions with the resort sector will lead to more changes to the Service Charge Ordinance, hence the delay in its implementation. As the minister with oversight of the Service Charge law, DP Astwood explained that the forum would give resort property owners the chance to further express their trepidations.
“I can say to you that it is not something that I intend to take lightly and actually I will take this opportunity to caution companies, to make sure that any type of what seems to be retaliation or harm that would come unto staff would not be taken lightly and they should refrain from it.”
The Deputy Premier expressed concern about the position the company plans to take in relation to staff transfers from the restaurant – Stelle – to the resort.
The two page letter says: “There is an option for Stelle Ltd employees, should you wish to move over to become Wymara Ltd employees and share in the service charge pool. These employees will be reissued new employment contracts (still employed in their restaurant positions). Work permit employees will be given the option to move over to become Wymara Ltd employees when their existing work permit expire(s) and applications will be treated as first time application(s), thus providing a risk of not being approved.”
Gansevoort, in that staff ‘change’ letter explained, “Whilst we are sure you will understand as your share of service charge has increased, the Management Companies share has been completely taken away and as a result of this, we have regrettably had to reduce some of the benefits we have been able to offer to you over the past 10 years.”
The Premier was in the press conference on Tuesday. It was clear that Hon Sharlene Robinson found the various controversies emerging since the amendments to the law which gives resort employees significantly more take home pay, vexing.
“It is very disappointing, the atmosphere that has been created,” said Premier Robinson who is also responsible for Finance and brought the Service Charge Bill to the House of Assembly, “for the last 14 years, people have been doing as they like even with the legislation. It is not new, it is a change in rate, yes it became mandatory… but this has just revealed the meanness of some corporate citizens, the meanness.”
The Premier reminded that the law, in its changed formed, is already passed and assured that there would be no roll back.
“We provided a resort facility fee, a fee that would allow them to regain what they are losing so to roll back benefits is because you want to.”
A two month delay reignited debate on the Hotel and Restaurant Service Charge 2018. On February 1, 2019 the ordinance will come into effect and impacts bookings at resorts made after February 1, 2019 only.