Battery Hotel employees uncertain of future: union president

Daniel MacEachern
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Workers to be laid off Jan. 5 after Signal Hill landmark sold

The Battery Hotel in St. John’s looms over the entrance to the Battery. The pending sale of the facility is expected to take place around the new year, and employees have been given layoffs that could be effective Jan. 5 if the sale goes ahead. — Telegram file photo

The president of the union that represents workers at the Battery Hotel says employees are being kept in the dark about the sale of the hotel.

As reported by CBC News Wednesday, the Signal Hill landmark has been sold after being on the market for more than two years, originally listed for $15 million.

“We’ve been notified by the manager for the Battery that they’ve given notices of termination of employment to employees,” said Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, which represents most of the 71 workers at the hotel. The layoffs are effective Jan. 5, on condition the pending sale goes ahead.

Details of the sale are scarce, including who the hotel has been sold to and what the plans are for it If a new owner plans to continue operating the hotel, it could mean some current workers could still have jobs, said Furlong, but right now things are up in the air.

“We have no idea who is purchasing, and we have no idea what the plans are. So obviously that’s somewhat disconcerting for the people who work there. Their future really is questionable at this point, because they don’t really know what options they might have come January,” Furlong said.

A Nova Scotia-born developer, Rick Butler — now based in California — bought the hotel in 2005, and originally planned to tear it down and build a 10-storey hotel.

That plan was shot down when he couldn’t get development approval. Messages left for Butler requesting comment for this story were not returned.

“When you get that piece of paper in your hands that says your employment will terminate, that gives you cause for alarm, obviously, when you don’t know one week after Christmas where your income will come from, or how you’re going to fare,” Furlong said.

 “And because we don’t know the status of the transaction and the intent of the purchaser, we don’t really know what options we might have available to us.”

 Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Battery Hotel, CBC News, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

Geographic location: California, Signal Hill, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Bob Johnson
    November 15, 2012 - 20:26

    @ A Business Man. Your English sure is horrid for such a "successful business man". Good luck with your studies!

  • badameli
    November 10, 2012 - 07:43

    I certainly hope the battery gets shut down for at least a year to do some major renovations. Corrugated metal walls for portable like expansion?!?!? Instead of worrying about the next 5 minutes or shift people have to look at the bigger picture. It was a real shame that the battery could not have been torn down + turned into a real hotel. 2 or 3 years ago I remember there being an RCMP convention there and we had officers fleeing the "hotel" to find other accommodations.

  • Anon
    November 09, 2012 - 15:16

    TIL the hotel industry needs a union for some reason that eludes me. Most of the employees in question make between $11-15 an hour. How in God's name do these people even afford union dues? They may all lose their jobs anyway. I hope the union was worth it.

  • The Usual Two or Three
    November 09, 2012 - 12:37

    It will be turned into expensive condos. You can guess who is behind it.

    • a business man
      November 10, 2012 - 10:53

      I may have posted this already, but I hope they turn it into high end expensive condos. It will add class to the city and generate lots revenue for the government. Everyone ones except the workers, so the greatest good is certainly served.

  • willy
    November 09, 2012 - 12:05

    "The president of the union that represents workers at the Battery Hotel says employees are being kept in the dark about the sale of the hotel" Since when are employees privy to details about the sale of a business, you got to love Union Management mentality.

    • a business man
      November 10, 2012 - 10:50

      whenever I am selling of offshoring a company, the employees are the LAST to know. In some cases, they just find out when they show up and the doors are locked. Employees are needed to do their job at every shift. If I were to tell them we were closing, they would leave. Also, this is CANADA. The law said employees are entitled to notice of termination, or pay n lieu of notice. It is up to the employer to decide which to provide. They employee has no say, nor should they. In other cases, I provide employees with excess notice to a) incite them to quit and leave (and get no termination pay), OR b) to negate any notice that a court may award them. So in short, there are many valid and strategic reasons as to why an employer might keep the workers in the dark about selling or closing the business. IT is perfectly legal, and quite smart .

    • Former Employee
      November 13, 2012 - 14:26

      I'm not a fan of unions and was never a participant of Union meetings or mentality while I worked there. BUT I think that when the employees have been there longer than the present owner, they should have full access to information about the place of employment's future, if not some sort of input. The reason why this particular hotel needed a union is because the present owner (soon to be former owner) needed a buffer--he did NOT make good choices to make the Battery a better hotel. He made it worse.

  • crista
    November 09, 2012 - 12:03

    who is behind all this ???? how much money has been spent on this historic park over the years, now if some thing goes there and damages the park who pays for the damages the taxpayer,look at the future for our children,all it took was a vote and broken promises,and the ones that wanted some thing out of it got it and we are not only talking about joey????

  • observer
    November 09, 2012 - 07:20

    When do people start taking responsibility for themselves. The hotel has been on the market for two years so if the employees did not see writing on the wall it is their fault. They should have found a new place of employment before now.

    • david
      November 09, 2012 - 08:38

      We are a people long entrenched in the belief that government takes care of everytihng.....government, as incompetewnt as it is, is supposed to save us from our own apathy and indifference. It was Joey's great everlasting gift to us all ---- total, child-like dependence on government.

    • Former Staff
      November 13, 2012 - 14:22

      Not entirely the case, Observer. I worked there and I can state from experience that it's been on the market and then off the market many times over and what it boils down to is that Rick Butler does not know how to run a hospitality enterprise. He's made many destructive decisions and enacted nonsense policies that have turned the Battery into a worse laughing-stock from what it was before. The point is, any time talk of sales have occurred, it was always with the intention of it remaining a hotel and simply "changing hands". The concept of the Battery Hotel actually being shut down was never explored or discussed with the employees.