All employees at Mellieħa Bay Hotel have been notified of their forthcoming redundancy amid a plan to demolish the complex and replace it by a brand new five-star resort.
A company spokesman told The Sunday Times of Malta that the existing complex will cease operations later this year and while no precise date was given, no bookings are being accepted after the end of October.
Inaugurated in 1969, Mellieħa Bay Hotel was at the time Malta’s largest hotel with 428 beds and had cost £1 million to build. Its opening heralded a new era in Malta’s post-Independence economy, a major step in promoting the island in the UK market, through Thomson Organisation Ltd. Thomson had started operating chartered flights as part of an all-inclusive package offered to British tourists.
The hotel spokesman told the newspaper that, 50 years down the line, the ageing building requires a major overhaul and it has been decided to start this process by closing it down towards the end of the year.
“The directors of the company are looking into a new project consisting of the building of a brand new five-star resort hotel that will be a major addition to Malta’s tourism product. The employees are being kept abreast of all developments through meetings with their union representatives,” he said.
However, details about the new hotel, such as the number of beds, the facilities and the construction timeframe have not been divulged, with the spokesman saying that plans had not yet been finalised. In fact no development application has yet been submitted by the hotel which forms part of the Alf Mizzi & Sons Group.
Sources in the accommodation industry said the company had acquired a large adjacent property in Għadira Bay, formerly housing the Costa Del Sol Restaurant. However, it is not known if this land will be incorporated in the project.
Though this newspaper is informed that a number of workers had already found alternative employment, those who had been on the company’s books for decades were “shocked” by the announcement.
The directors are looking into a new project that will be a major addition to Malta’s tourism product
Kenny Muscat, hospitality and catering section secretary of the General Workers Union which represents about 70 workers, said that compared to other hotels, Mellieħa Bay still had a large number of Maltese employees.
“We estimate that by the time it ceases operations, the number of our members still on the company’s books will have gone down to about 25,” he said.
The union official insisted that as soon as it got wind of plans to demolish the hotel, it requested that management notify the workers about their future at least a year in advance.
Mr Muscat acknowledged that those who had spent their entire career working at the hotel would be the ones who would probably find it hard to adapt.
“While the union cannot guarantee an alternative job for its members, it is working to mitigate the situation by securing financial arrangements to give some peace of mind to employees who have certain commitments,” Mr Muscat said.
He noted that this was no ordinary closure for refurbishment, in which case it would have been possible to find temporary arrangements.
“From what we have learnt so far, the project will take at least three years to be completed,” he said.
The union is insisting that if the company needs to engage workers, it should first offer the opportunity to its existing employees so long as the nature of the work permits this.
The GWU official remarked that the employment law left much to be desired in cases of redundancy, as it only outlined the notice period. Redundancy gratuity is only given when workers are covered by a collective agreement, he added.
In this case the GWU negotiated an agreement under which employees who find a job elsewhere are being given the opportunity to leave straightaway, without working the mandatory notice period.
Alternatively, those who prefer to work the entire notice period, which could be up to 12 weeks long, will be entitled to a sum as part of their ‘service award’ which is normally given at retirement age.
Employees who work right up the closing down will be entitled to the service award and the notice money, which could be equivalent to a sum of up to six months’ wages.
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