Hiring alert - Concerns over employment protocol for hotel workers

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) said Thursday night's reported rape and gun attack on two visitors at the RIU Reggae Hotel in Montego Bay, St James, allegedly by a new entertainment coordinator, should trigger a review of hiring protocols in the sector.

It is a suggestion endorsed by security consultant Mark Shields.

Shields, a former deputy commissioner of police in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, reserved comment on the RIU incident but said, historically, hotels have failed to undertake adequate background checks on new employees.

"I do have a concern," Shields told The Gleaner.

The RIU incident has been attracting intense scrutiny since The Gleaner reported on Monday night that the suspect, Demar Dowe Scott, had been named by the Manchester police from as far back as March 2 as a person of interest in relation to several rapes in the division.

The Manchester police, via their Community Partnership Facebook page, had offered a $35,000 reward for information on Scott's whereabouts.

According to Shields, proper due diligence is critical for employees in a position of trust.

"When hotels and other industries are confronted with a criminal amongst their staff, they tend to remove the problem rather than seeking recourse in the courts. In other words, the problem is passed on to the next employer," Shields said.

JHTA President Omar Robinson said the association encourages member hotels to share infor-mation about shady employees who have had to be dismissed but conceded that there was no requirement for them to do so.

"Each hotel will have its own hiring policy," Robinson said, noting that most resorts require a police record before employing potential recruits.

He said at Round Hill Hotel and Villas, which he manages, a police record is a standard requirement for recruits, even before training.

MANY HOTELS HAVE NO SUCH POLICY

But Shields said he has found that despite the risks, many resorts have no such policy.

"Many companies cut corners and are unwilling to spend on security checks, thus putting their businesses and others at risk," Shields said.

In a statement yesterday, RIU said a police record is always requested before a work contract is formalised.

It did not say whether it had received a police record for Scott, who was in training, but maintained that its "very severe and rigorous" protocol was followed.

Scott was employed only three days before the reported gun attack and rape.

RIU also did not address the fact that more than seven months before, Scott had been named as a person of interest in connection with a series of rapes.

Laura Malone, RIU's senior manager for communication and public relations, only said the trainee presented a rÈsumÈ with education and experience relevant to the position, a recommendation from a justice of the peace, and a letter from an entertainment manager from another company.

"This was an unprecedented event," said Malone.

She also said RIU has been cooperating with investigators but would not reveal further details in order to protect the privacy of its clients and to avoid interfering with the police probe.


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