Editorial comment – Long tentacles of a pandemic

An aerial view of the Fiji Marriott Resort at Momi Bay. Picture: SUPPLIED

It is interesting that the Marriott International Fiji has acknowledged COVID-19 has had a huge impact on its business.

In hindsight though, it was to be expected.

As our report today states, as a result, Fiji Marriott Resort on Momi Bay and The Westin and Sheraton Resorts on Denarau Island will be consulting with each affected worker, their union and the land owning community in the coming weeks.

In the face of the impact the virus has had on tourism in Fiji, it is encouraging that some companies have kept staff on the payroll.

This continues to happen for many companies around the country which are already facing hardship. The pandemic hasn’t been kind on many businesses.

It has negatively impacted companies that were tightly linked to the tourism industry for starters.

Thousands of people have been forced to work reduced hours, forced to take leave without pay, had their services terminated, or taken massive pay cuts.

With their source of revenue greatly impacted by the closure of international borders, it was to be expected in the tourism industry.

The assistant director of hhuman resources at the Fiji Marriott Resort, Regina Kumar said the effects of the pandemic are impacting business “resulting in unfortunate circumstances”.

“Contingency manpower actions started in March 2020 and this included the implementation of reduced hours, paid leave and leave without pay. Expat payroll reduced by over 70 per cent through reduction in number of expats employed and reducing salaries by up to 50 per cent.”

Farah Shazleen, the cluster director of human resources, believes hospitality activities in Fiji would not return until beyond 2021.

The hotel industry, she insisted, “has to face the new normal”.

The resort reviewed various options and had consultations with key stakeholders, said Ms Shazleen.

“We have made a difficult decision to readjust the work force of the hotels post COVID-19.”

With the business climate the way it is now, accompanied by low demand, impacted associates, she said, including expat roles would receive letters.

“As part of the process, we will be consulting with each affected associate over the two-week period including the hotel workers union and our land owning community,” she said.

Both the resorts say they will hire again once business picks up.

This is the sad reality of our life and times now.

Things certainly aren’t looking good on the domestic front.

It is encouraging though that there are companies that are going through contingencies, which effectively allow Fijians to stay in employment for a little bit longer.

But there are no doubts about the fact many businesses are being stretched to the limit.

We can only ponder on time frames and how this would impact businesses in Fiji looking to the future.

We obviously need to be part of a travel bubble quickly.

However, considering the ground rules that must be met to raise our profile, there can be no doubts that Fijians will be looking to the powers that be for reassurance and initiatives and other options that will keep heads above water.

Far too many people are badly impacted by the pandemic.

It tears at the heart reading about and actually seeing this harsh reality on the ground.

The pandemic has turned many lives upside down.

It is encouraging though that many Fijians are not sitting back waiting for handouts.

Our challenge though, collectively as a nation, is to continue keeping the virus at bay.

That means adhering to all safety rules.

A second wave would make the tough life thousands are now living, a whole lot tougher.

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