Campaigners from both sides of the debate at the Senate on Friday morning. *Photo by James Whittaker
Campaigners from both sides of the debate at the Senate on Friday morning. *Photo by James Whittaker

FRIDAY MARCH 18: A bus-load of workers from Tucker’s Point descended on Cabinet grounds this morning to stage their own rival demonstration — in support of the hotel’s controversial expansion plan.

About 30 green-campaigners showed up for the first phase of an all-day protest, waving banners saying “vote no to SDO” as senators arrived for the decisive debate.

But they were outnumbered by staff from the hotel carrying a Tucker’s Point Club flag and banners reading “save our jobs”.

At one point the rival groups attempted to out-sing each other. The hotel workers briefly burst into a rendition of  “we are marching” only to be drowned out by pro-environment demonstrators singing “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.

Senators stopped to wave and greet demonstrators on either side before entering the chamber. They will continue their debate over the Budget today before moving on to the critical SDO discussion later this evening.

The House of Assembly has already approved the granting of a Special Development Order lifting conservation restrictions to allow developers to build 78 homes and 70 new hotel rooms at the site.

But the plan could be blocked in the upper house, potentially delaying the expansion for at least a year or even derailing it completely.

The five PLP Senators are expected to vote to approve the Special Development Order. With the three UBP senators preparing to vote against the SDO it would require all three Independents to oppose the move for it to be turned down.

John Ryall, a retired Butterfield and Vallis worker, said he was there to urge them to do just that.

He added: “Basically we are looking at pristine land being ruined, as was shown on the walkabout, without any guarantee at all that the present owners can make it work.

“I do appreciate that tourism is necessary for the island and our open spaces are what attracts tourists here.”

Dorita Rogers, a room attendant and the shop steward at Tucker’s Point, said the employees were there to fight for their jobs.

She does not think people realize what is at stake for the hotel’s 200-plus workers and their families.

She said: “I’m a single parent working two jobs. I’ve been in the hospitality industry for 29 years and this is the best hotel I have worked at.

“Right now we are in a recession. It’s so hard to get a job, if the SDO doesn’t go through and we are out of work, how are we going to find new jobs?”

Retired corporate lawyer Kevin Comeau, who was protesting against the SDO, said the hotel workers' jobs would actually be more secure if Tucker’s Point went under.

He believes the hotel’s financial situation is unsustainable — with or without the new development — and argued that it should be sold at cut-price to a new company, who could attempt to make it profitable, without the debt burden.

He said the hotel’s financial situation should have been made clear to the politicians making the decision.

Tucker’s Point president Ed Trippe, who was present with his staff, has argued that the hotel’s financial information is private.

He said his workers were not under orders to attend today’s event, adding: “This is not a paid rally. These are people who have come out because they believe in what Tucker’s Point is doing.”

Raymond Ming, head doorman at the hotel, said: “We have 230 wonderful, hard-working employees. We couldn’t have everybody here today because we have a hotel to run.”

The Tucker’s Point workers left to "get back to work" just before 10.30am, leaving a smattering of anti-SDO protesters on the grounds. More are expected throughout the day.