Philipsburg:--- The Workers Institute for Organized Labour (WIFOL) and the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU) are planning to take legal action against the government of St. Maarten for failing to take appropriate action in the Simpson Bay Resort Management labour dispute. President of both organizations Theophillus Thompson expressed disappointment on Thursday during a press briefing on how the government of St. Maarten has handled the labour dispute between the WIFOL and the Simpson Bay Resort Management Company BV (SBRMC) and Royal Resorts Management Company Ltd (Former Pelican Resorts).
Thompson said that some 145 workers are out of work and these workers were not paid the last pay period by their employers since the Appeals Court has suspended the most recent verdict issued by the Court of First Instance.
The President of the WIFOL said the union took the initiative when they requested a meeting with the Minister of Labour Cornelius de Weever. Ever since then the Minister met with the company and their lawyers and has promised to get all parties around the table but to date the Minister of Labour Cornelius de Weever did not get back to the union with a date for that meeting. Thompson further explained that while the union has lost confidence in the Appeals Court they will be using other legal measures to make sure the workers of the former Pelican Resorts get justice. Thompson said besides the labour impasse, the SBRMC submitted a request to dismiss 49 of the workers but to date the labour department has not taken a decision on the dismissal request. He said the legal time frame requires that the department of labour must make a decision within 6 weeks but it's been five months now and the labour department did not respond. He said those workers are among the lot who were also not paid during the last pay period even though they have a letter of guarantee stating that they will be paid until a decision from the labour department is rendered. "Those workers whose names were submitted for dismissal could have been paid out by the company they could have been out there seeking employment if the labour department did their job. Today, they have to request social assistance since their employers did not pay them."
Initially there were 183 workers who were facing dismissal but 38 of the workers opted to sign the short term contracts that were offered to them by SBRMC. "Those workers acted out of fear and they were between a rock and hard place so they signed the contracts while forfeiting their benefits." When asked if the SBRMC paid out the 38 workers for their years of service Thompson said that the workers did not get anything for the years of service they gave to the former Pelican Resorts. "The contract they signed is even hindering their basic human rights and I don't know if the labour department approved the contract that SBRMC gave to the workers."
Thompson said the plight of the workers and the actions of the SBRMC has affected a number of families and the government of St. Maarten has shown no interest in resolving the problem. The unionist further explained that the union is contemplating taking actions against the Ombudsman since she did not address the possible conflict of interest with one of the Members of Parliament Jules James who is also the General Manager of SBRMC. "The double functions this person is holding is conflicting and we believe that government and the Ombudsman should address the matter." While the SBRMC is at loggerheads with the workers and has claimed they have no monies, the unions said they were made to understand that the company submitted a number of requests to government all of which they said were granted to the investors.
The union alleges that the SBRMC submitted a request for a casino license, while they also requested a waiver for the transfer tax. Besides that, SBRMC business license is up for renewal and the union wants to know what are some of the requirements government attached to the license if it's renewed. "The Pelican labour struggle started in December 2009 and we would like to see how the renewal of the license will be handled."
In the meantime, the vice president of the WICLU Claire Elshot said that she believes that the government of St. Maarten should have the company come up with the transfer tax they waived for SBRMC and pay the workers now that they have to request social aid.