Our Lucaya Layoffs Impact Grand Bahama

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Grand Bahama's unemployment rate could now be in the region of 25 percent, following the Our Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort's layoff of 200 staff members on Friday, charges the island's Chamber of Commerce President Peter Turnquest.

The situation is especially troubling, he said, given there are no jobs prospects to absorb that number of unemployed persons.  

"That's a major blow for us," Turnquest told Guardian Business yesterday.  "Two hundred jobs is going to be very significant.

"I don't know where we are going to pick that up."

While there are several projects being talked about for the island, he said there is nothing concrete in the pipeline to generate any significant employment opportunities on the island.

Last week the resort confirmed that the economic conditions on Grand Bahama forced it to let go 200 employees, leaving the property with around 800 staff members.

"Over the past number of years the resort has realized substantial losses annually.  However, we remain committed to providing a first-class tourism product and keeping talented and hardworking Bahamians employed," said a statement released last week by the resort.  "It is an unfortunate action, but the only viable alternative in streamlining our expenses and keeping the resort operational until we emerge from the downturn in the economy," the release continued.

"In the coming weeks we intend to present the particulars of our new business strategy moving forward.  Primary in our improvement is an aggressive marketing and promotional campaign and possible restructure of the resort."

Our Lucaya said it would compensate managers and line staff who were let go in accordance with the Employment Act.  It also said counseling and guidance services will be made available to the disengaged workers.

Retired banker Al Jarrett asserted in an earlier interview that The Bahamas will have to create eight to ten thousand jobs each year for the next three years to return to pre-recession unemployment levels.

It's necessary, he said, to reduce an unemployment rate nearing 20 percent, in his estimation.

"We lost over 20,000 jobs in the recession,"  Jarrett claimed.  "We have new entrants on the market and people are looking for a job and there is no work.  That's based on empirical and anecdotal information.

"When the last survey was done in October 2009, the Department of Statistics rendered that unemployment will be about 15 percent, with Grand Bahama around 18.2 percent and New Providence being about 14.6 percent."

A recent study referenced at an International Monetary Fund conference revealed that The Bahamas is now ranked second highest in unemployment in the region.

The Nassau Guardian