I am sure that you all have received the email from Zaji Zajrdhara. Be advised that there is no truth to the spurious and defamatory allegations he makes therein the republication of which would cause further harm to the name and the good reputation of Hyatt Regency Saipan. Mr. Zajrdhara’s actions intending to create problems for employers and employees in the Commonwealth to monetarily benefit himself are well known and well documented. Undoubtedly, he is once again widely disseminating false information to the media and government officials with the apparent intent to cause harm to Hyatt’s good name and Hyatt’s strong commitment to the welfare of its employees and to the CNMI community as a whole, particularly in these hard times.
While the Hyatt should not have to defend itself against the baseless accusations of a serial defamer like Mr. Zajrdhara, in order to quell any misunderstanding of the situation he has caused by his all-caps email, I would like to provide the following actual facts that dispel all of Mr. Zajrdhara’s assumptions and the concerns he obviously intended to raise to harm Hyatt. It is generally not the policy of the Hyatt to comment on its internal business and human resource operations and decisions, but we feel that a response to Mr. Zajradahara’s false and defamatory accusations is warranted in these circumstances.
Due to the unexpected and monumental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the CNMI economy, and Saipan tourism in particular, like all of the other resort hotels in the Commonwealth (and presumably everywhere else), Hyatt Regency Saipan experienced a rapid and severe decline in room occupancy beginning in March. By late-March 2020 occupancy was down to less than 28% and government imposed restrictions in response to the pandemic forced Hyatt to shut all of its restaurants and much of its other services for an indefinite and extended period of time.
Hyatt started to lay off its employees in mid-April. We tried to keep most, but with a drastic drop in occupancy, we had to let go of more, effective July 1, 2020. In order to cope with continuous loss of business, the Hyatt had to furlough and lay off more workers in various categories and with various levels of seniority and an indefinite layoff of several other categories of its workforce, all done according to a non-discriminatory RIF plan and with proper notice to the CNMI Secretary of Labor. All affected employees were notified of the RIF in mid-April as soon as the decision was made to drastically downsize to save the business.
All laws were followed in Hyatt’s efforts to mitigate the economic impact of the CNMI shutdown on both Hyatt’s business and the livelihood of its employees to the greatest extent possible in the circumstances. Unavoidably, many employees had to be furloughed and laid-off with Hyatt’s stated intention of re-employing them, if possible, when the Hyatt’s business returned which, we currently estimate, could be as late as next year.
Hyatt Regency Saipan has not evicted a single resident of its staff housing since the RIF was implemented. Indeed, several of Hyatt’s employees affected by the RIF continue to live in staff housing to which Hyatt continues to provide full utility services despite ongoing inability to pay Hyatt for the rent. Hyatt has informed these furloughed and former employees that, if they choose to stay, they can do so until PUA and FPUC funding is released, at which time they are expected to pay the rent and utility charges to Hyatt that are being billed and are accumulating monthly (without penalty). For those not called back to service or reemployed by the time they receive their PUA, they will need to pay off the debt to Hyatt and find alternative accommodations as they are no longer Hyatt employees.
Again, Hyatt has not evicted a single person, either actually or constructively, during this pandemic. Hyatt does, however, reserve the right to do so in circumstances that warrant evictions, but until its affected former employees receive, through PUA funds or some other unemployment relief, the compensation they lost due to the pandemic, Hyatt is committed to deferring the monthly rent and utility charges of its law-abiding former employees’ temporary tenants—not as a legal requirement but as a humanitarian gesture by a company that cares about the welfare of its employees. Obviously, the rent and utility deferral situation cannot go on forever, but everyone is hopeful that unemployment compensation will be distributed soon, giving Hyatt’s former employees the means to settle up and move on.
Hyatt Regency Saipan has also maintained the health insurance coverage of all of its employees that had the coverage prior to the RIF and will do so through Sept. 30, 2020. Again, that is not a legal requirement but Hyatt is doing this out of compassion for, dedication to in support of its employees, anyone of whom could get exposed to COVID-19 and incur devastating medical expenses without the continuing coverage.
In the end, Hyatt has always been committed to providing the best care for its employees even in Hyatt’s most challenging circumstances because we stand by our words: “We care for people so they can be their best.”
No matter what the circumstances may be, we fully understand that when one loses their employment, whether it is because an unavoidable CW non-renewal, a global pandemic, damaging super typhoons or other loss of business, people have a hard time accepting the resulting loss of income. However, Hyatt always reacts to those circumstances as best as it can, in a legal, non-discriminatory manner and always with the interests of its workforce in mind.
So, as you can see, the situation is actually the opposite of Mr. Zajrdhara’s fabricated and defamatory accusations. Even a cursory investigation into the true facts would reveal his defamatory accusations as false.
Again, Hyatt Regency Saipan should not have to defend itself against the false accusations of a known agitator, but we trust that his effort has set the record straight and that all of you will disregard and not spread the false and defamatory accusations of Zaji Zajrdhara.
I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to read our side of the story and hope that, although the Hyatt does not publicize all the good deeds we do in our community, I can assure you that we do care for our people and a majority of our employees are very grateful for the things we do, not because it’s the law, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Josephine Mesta (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Josephine Mesta is director of Human Resources of the Hyatt Regency Saipan.