Phuket hotel sacks staff
PHUKET, 23 May 2012: Perplexed staff wondered precisely what was happening, Tuesday, when well-known Phuket resort, the Evason Phuket and Bon Island, sacked 394 workers and intimated it would close within a week or so.
Online news service, Phuketwan, broke the news of the sackings in its Tuesday edition, stating it would cause alarm bells to sound off at other vintage properties that might be targeted by investment firms.
The sharp farewell was accompanied by a payout of all legal entitlements, staff explained. But they added that instant dismissal was hardly the way for a resort previously noted for its quality and environmental excellence to say farewell to loyal workers.
Last week, travel agents complained to TTR Weekly that they had been told to move their guests by 14 May and were told the hotel was closing for an extensive remake. The hotel originally called Phuket Island Resort was the first tourist class hotel on Phuket island opening for business in 1969. The family owners sold the property in the late 90s and since then it has various owners including a Spanish hotel firm before it fell into the hands of Six Senses that is also in the midst of a major restructuring.
According to the Phuketwan report, a number of ageing Phuket resorts remain likely candidates for purchase by investment firms with similar intent.
A broad hint that life was about to change came a couple of months ago with the transfer of the annual yachting fixture, Phuket Raceweek, from the Evason, its home for almost a decade, to the Cape Panwa Hotel and its sister, the Kantary Bay Hotel.
Sacked staff plan to go to Phuket’s Department of Labor and Welfare on Wednesday to seek a doubling of payouts because they were not given three months notice.
Staff who had been at the resort for between one and three years were given three months’ pay – tomorrow they will ask for six months; staff who had been at the resort for four to six years were given six months – tomorrow they will ask for 12 months.
Others with longer service aim to double their payouts accordingly.
The instant sackings are likely to alarm workers at all resorts of similar vintage to the Evason Phuket and Bon Island. First resort in the line of dominoes to fall was Laguna Beach Resort, where staff were given notice earlier this year before a six month remake.
Few of the old staff at Laguna Beach Resort expect to be rehired when the ”new” resort opens before next high season, although the new owners, a Singapore investment firm with Thai connections, have offered that inducement.
Evason has been a pacesetter on some fronts, particularly regarding environmental concerns. The name was created by Sonu Shivdasani, chairman and CEO of the Soneva Group, who named both Evason and Soneva after his wife Eva and himself.
Some staff were retrenched in June 2009, when everything was done by the book. Six Senses Resorts and Spas acquired full ownership in 2010, when a Bt100 million remake was undertaken – without the resort closing.
A name change converted the Evason Phuket and Six Senses Spa into the Evason Phuket and Bon Island.
Six Senses off loaded the property to an investment firm as part of a restructuring, earlier this year. The sale terms on the Phuket property were due to be completed no later than 14 May.
Six Senses was split into two entities one to run its hotel operations and another that will run by the owner and his wife that focuses on real estate and luxury villa developments.