Copthorne Solway. PHOTO/FILE

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

The sudden downsizing of Copthorne Hotel and Resort in Solway from a 102-bed hotel to a 50-bed hotel, and the closing of the lodge for conferences has forced a staff restructure, affecting 23 jobs.

New Trust House chief executive Charles Kaka said only 11 jobs had been disestablished because 12 staff, whose jobs were set to be disestablished, did not apply for the available jobs and left.

Of those 11 jobs, only three were full time. He confirmed that the hotel had “no positive movement on conferencing bookings” and the hotel was running at less than 55 per cent occupancy.

“From the company’s perspective, we would have preferred that no one lost their job but as you know covid-19 has shaken the world up,” Kaka said.

The restructure proposal was announced to hotel staff in a letter from former Trust House chief executive Allan Pollard on May 5 with a week given for staff feedback on it.

“The drastic U-turn, so extreme and sudden, to battle covid-19 has left the business in freefall,” Pollard said.

“We expect our costs will far exceed our revenue, and if no changes were made, the losses sustained by the business would be untenable.”

In that letter, the roles proposed to be disestablished were three receptionist roles, a night auditor and night manager, a grounds maintenance role and building maintenance role, four food and beverage supervisors, five food and beverage attendants, a conference porter, six kitchen staff, and 10 housekeeping roles.

Some of the remaining jobs were set to have reduced hours from fulltime to 32 or 20 hours on a rostered system.

Copthorne management started the restructure during the covid-19 lockdown.

It held job interviews at Alert Level 2 where staff could apply for remaining roles.

If they did not fit the job description or were unsuccessful at the interview stage, they were to be given two weeks’ redundancy notice as per individual employment contracts.

But now, two former staff are accusing management of favouring family members in the restructure, and another former employee has lodged a grievance claim related to bullying by management.

Beatrice Kalapu, 22, worked for the company for a year.

She didn’t apply for a job in the restructure as she was unhappy with the management style and felt the application process was “unfair”.

“Before the closing date for applications, a daughter of a manager told me she would definitely have a job because her mum was the boss – this made me feel sick,” Kalapu said.

She said that three staff that she believed had kept their jobs were directly related to managers: two daughters and a husband.

Former hotel duty manager for four years, Tejas Adelkar was overseas when made redundant and said the “groupism” was noticeable.

“The situation is unfair, biased and groupism,” Adelkar said.

“The jobs which were not redundant were surely because of the manager’s relationship as friends with those employees and not considering their work ethic and knowledge.

“There were far more deserving employees who were made redundant.”

Former housekeeping supervisor Matua Muakoholeva has engaged lawyer Tracy Campbell from CW Employment Law to represent her.

Muakoholeva is progressing bullying claims against the hotel general manager Jill Harrison.

She is also questioning the accuracy of her pay during the lockdown.

Kaka said: “I am unable to comment on this matter given its an employment matter between the staff member and the company. The company takes such allegations seriously and we have undertaken an investigation. I have not as yet seen the investigation findings report.”