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AHIC: Jumeirah boss to avoid more HR cutbacks

Gemma Greenwood, May 3rd, 2009

Jumeirah Group executive chairman Gerald Lawless has said he will do everything he can to prevent further job cuts at the hospitality giant.

"We are offering staff voluntary unpaid leave and may have to continue this through the summer," he told Hotelier Middle East.

"We can never say never and we have to be realistic in the current climate. We will continue to work very hard to avoid further cuts as we know that we will start to recruit again at the end of this year."
He was speaking after Jumeirah laid off staff a few months ago.

The number of redundancies was not confirmed but it is thought up to 100 employees lost their jobs.               

"There were no job losses in guest areas; we made sure it wouldn't affect the quality given to our customers," said Lawless.

He said it was frustrating to let go staff when the company was planning to roll out new properties soon.

"The encouraging thing though, is that many staff who have left have asked if they can come back when we open new hotels," he added.

Some of those made redundant have been snapped up by other companies such as Rotana and Movenpick as they prepare to roll out new properties this year and next.

"We actually set up a careers fair for those made redundant to help them find new jobs," said Lawless.

"It was important to us that this process was managed carefully. We wanted to let them (the colleagues) know that we understood the pain they were going through."

Lawless said that the decision as to whether more staff would need to go - either temporarily or permanently - would very much depend on Jumeirah Group's performance during the summer months, however, he was "quietly confident" that July and August would be good months for the firm's beach properties in particular.

"For February and March our average occupancies were at 93% with April being at 96% occupancy. Summer will be the challenge, but I would expect to have occupancies around the 80%, especially in July and August," he said.

The Jumeirah Group's positive attitude towards its staff was recognised last week at the inaugural Hewitt 'Best Employers in the Middle East 2009' awards where it received the ‘Emerging International Best Employer from the Middle East’ accolade.