Denon Ciateur: Contributor
The situation at the overpriced, overrated Guyana Marriott remains unaddressed by Guyana’s Minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes and Minister of Health, George Norton.
I’ll start with health first because that involves lives.
We, the staff, have NEVER been officially advised that there is mold in the storage area behind the front office that sits off the lobby. We were told this through the grapevine by those responsible for relocating the At Your Service Call Center, Reservation Agents and Cashiers to the executive office where they are currently housed.
They were moved and nothing visible is being done about mold clean up. The staff in the adjacent areas remain where they are – separated by a wall from the spores of mold. The storage area has furniture not currently in use but they have to be used one day and that door has to be opened to get to them.
We have pregnant staff members who work in close proximity to the area that is mold ground zero. None of these women have been advised about the consequences of being exposed to mold. And, we have people who may have already been affected by mold. There is one employee, black male, who took ill and was off the job for six weeks and hospitalized during this period. Part of his illness was a breathing problem that he had never had before. I won’t say his name but I am sure he will be willing to testify to his ailment if he is called.
We have made anonymous calls to the Ministry of Health because we have to keep our jobs. We are already routinely persecuted by the Latin staff that continues to treat Guyanese like they are lesser beings, especially Afro Guyanese. Nobody has come here from the Ministry of Health. NO ONE. Hopefully this will get them in here because we are all exposed to the poisons of mold – staff and guests even those who just drop by to see what the place is like.
The bad thing about this is that the Chinese builder’s contract expires at the end of this month- March 2016. These builders, Shanghai Construction Group, will then hand over the mold and all of the other construction mess to the Marriott Guyana Engineering now headed by Guyanese Monty Lewis. He will be inheriting the flawed construction as well as the mold -none of which Guyanese should be responsible for fixing and if they have to ,they will charged more than the obscene amount the construction of this behemoth has already cost Guyanese taxpayers.
Without question, Marriott Guyana is the worst face of Guyana’s tourism.
Apart from the mold, our menus remain challenged by the daily lack of prescribed ingredients. Last week we had no fresh fruit, so the desserts were compromised. Yesterday we had no fresh vegetables so the breakfast vegetable samosas had to be substituted with chicken. Several guests complained. People don’t always want meat in the morning, especially when they order vegetables.
There is no promotion for our drinks either. Every day there is some extravaganza going on for Heineken or Carib beer – both foreign products, encouraging guests to drink these foreign beverages. The bar never stocks Banks Beer or Shandy and never hosts a promotion for local alcoholic beverages. As Guyanese, we ask why and have been told by the Latin Beverage Service Director, Carlos Salerno, that these drinks are not budgeted for. Why would the Guyana Marriott not budget for Banks Beer or Shandy or the other Guyanese products?
And the night life is NON EXISTENT. Here is this big hotel that people come to for this exorbitant daily charge and at night they have to walk over to the Pegasus for entertainment. Our local bands are not contracted to come here at night, no local performers, no local DJ’s. The Marriott is not for Guyanese and it shows in so many ways. The General Manager, Roberto Grisi, makes 3 million GYD monthly while the Executive Directors make 1.8 million monthly. We understand corporate profits etc. but the President of Guyana doesn’t make that kind of money and the poor job that these Latino Directors are doing to make this Marriott really reflect Guyana doesn’t deserve those salaries which are relatively obscene. No wonder Roberto Grisi takes time to answer the bogus reviews on Trip Advisor, or have someone answer and sign his name.
Every guest pays a service charge which is supposed to be divded amongst all employees as a sort of bonus.
We have never received this ever, so the question is who is getting our blasted money?
And while all this is going on Cathy Hughes remains strangely oblivious, touting Guyana as a hot tourist spot without attempting to fix the tourist anomalies that fester and expand here. She’s here so frequently she may as well be a permanent guest but she seems not to see how the Marriott fails, falls shamefully short of being a genuine and viable part of our tourist landscape. She has to see that the visible staff is primarily Latin and East Indian. She sees what we see – the predominance of Latinos and East Indians. Or maybe she doesn’t, in which case I will suggest that she cries for help.
I have met many people here who have said they came to meet with Ministers but are leaving because they can get no meetings after spending thousands of dollars in travel and accommodation. We know Minister Hughes doesn’t know everything but we have so many people who want to offer the necessary expertise that there is no way this area of tourism should floundering as badly as it is.
If Guyana wants to be a part of the Caribbean and South American charm it will need a Tourism Minister who will listen to the voices of Guyanese at home and abroad. So far she is earning low scores in both categories; a continuous disappointment to us all.
Two weeks ago, we got a visit from a corporate official, Michele O’Neil, Senior Director Employee Relations, from Weston Florida, who I am told, reports directly to Bill Marriott. She conducted a series of ‘focus group’ sessions which focused on the Marriott as a corporate entity – NOT on any Guyanese or on the image this hotel is painting about our country, its hospitality and its failure to realize its potential to be a significant part of the region’s tourism. I say failure because if I am visiting the Marriott in Guyana I don’t want to go to the Pegasus for night time entertainment and I do want to be able to select my beverages from a Guyanese list of choices. My choices should not be restricted to Heineken and Caribe
Handpicked employees attended the sessions at which they addressed some of the problems – the obvious discrimination, the fact that vacancies are not always advertised and more often filled from outside of the country, the fact that blacks have a lower ratio of appointment to positions than East Indians and Latinos.
That was mere window dressing. The sessions were always eclipsed by the infusion of the Marriott’s Guest Satisfaction Survey scores and Overall Satisfaction Survey Scores which are OBVIOUSLY more important than our dissatisfaction. She showed facial concern about the presence of mold but never once, as a visiting senior executive, initiate summoning the Guyana Health Department when she was told, or followed up with us before she left to let us know that the complaint was lodged with the Guyana Heath Department and Marriott Corporate.
So, the Michelle O’Neil visit has changed nothing and seems to have been the Marriott’s strategy to appear as though they responded to concerns.
May 2016 is a significant milestone for Guyanese and many from abroad have already made reservations with Marriott Guyana. Cathy Hughes and George Norton need to make it their duty to come in to the Marriott with the right teams to look in to the mold, the pool and staff concerns NOW. The mold problem, the pool problem and failure to profile Guyanese products and talent at the Guyana Marriott must be addressed NOW.
We have already begun looking in to a Union. This makes the local corporate lackeys very nervous. Vadis Agard, the Guyanese/Barbadian, has already started her campaign to discourage us from unionizing. So has Victor Tenorio, the Director who is so lucky he directs Service which is Housekeeping and that kind of stuff and Loss Prevention. They preferred to give him two portfolios rather than give a Guyanese one. These two, in particular, are telling us how Unions are only about dues and we will not get the service we expect.
Right now, I say we need the union especially since our Ministers, Hughes and Norton, have abandoned us. I would ask for Labor Minister Keith Scott but he has his own problems with the scandal he is trying to ride out and he doesn’t impress us as a vigorous Minister at all. We had called in Minister Broomes whose representative documented our complaints so she can tell them we’re not making this up.
Worst comes to worst, we’re prepared to protest in front of the Marriott during the month of May and will get some of the guests to join us.