~ Executives get a percentage of profit sharing.~
PHILIPSBURG:--- Employees of Windward Islands International Airways (WINAIR) and the two unions were duped by management in March 2020 during their general staff meeting about salary cuts.
Several employees of the company contacted SMN News and said that in March 2020 management of WINAIR, namely its Chief Executive Officer Michael Cleaver and Chief Financial Officer Roberto Gibbs met with the staff and assured them that there would not be any salary cuts to employees salaries because WINAIR is financially stable for the past 10 years.
The staff said by the end of March when they received their salaries only then they all realized that 25% of their salaries were deducted as cuts. The employees said that the two unions that are representing the workers then decided to speak with management because they were not consulted on the cuts and it is also contrary to what management told the staff in their general meeting.
“It was only after the unions begin to make noise that management called a meeting via “ZOOM” to say that they implemented the cuts because some of the employee's contracts have a clause that states that in the event the company is in financial crisis then WINAIR is within its rights to cut their salaries by 25%.” The staff members said that WINAIR does not have a standard contract and that management changes the contract depending on who is being hired. They said during that “ZOOM” meeting, not all staff were present so many of them were not privy to all information.
They made clear that while some of the contracts have the clause that WINAIR referred to, many of them also do not have such a clause yet they were subjected to the cuts. WINAIR is the first government-owned company that applied cuts even though they boast that they are the only government-owned company that is doing financially well and even though the company almost went bankrupt some years ago.
WINAIR is the first government-owned company that implemented cuts way before the Dutch government demanded that cuts be made in order to qualify for the SSRP even though the Netherlands and the Government of St. Maarten are shareholders. Besides implementing cuts WINAIR applied a 25% cut to all salaries which is higher than the cuts the Dutch government demanded from the private sector. Government was asked to cut 12.5% from civil servants and WINAIR is a government-owned company yet its workers received double cuts while the unions eventually agreed with management because of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
What is more disturbing the workers said that WINAIR have been collecting the SSRP which in the beginning was 80% and management was supposed to add the other 20% so that they could be paid the full 100% yet WINAIR workers only received 75% of their salaries and there is no guarantee that they would ever get back the money they lost. This was also explained by the Minister of Finance Irion Ardwell several times since the launch of the SSRP. The unions they said asked if the workers would ever get back their full salaries and they were told by the CFO that would not be possible.
The workers said that while government sits back and WINAIR workers are being taken advantage of the management meaning the CEO and CFO are not only receiving very high salaries but they are also receiving profit-sharing percentages. The workers further explained that they along with the union do not have any proof that the salaries of the management staff were cut. “They said that but management cannot be trusted they say one thing and then does something else. The workers said that the CEO Michael cleaver is very arrogant and has been bullying workers and stakeholders, as such the chairman of the supervisory board has to always jump in to save the company especially when negotiations have to take place. These things they say happen but the Supervisory Board of Directors does nothing because they claim that management makes them look good with their books and the shareholders are always happy but that they said it is at the expense of the workers that are the ones that are being taken advantage of.
Since the shutdown in March 2020 WINAIR also let go of a number of their staff due to the cut back in flights and are now operating with a skeleton crew.
The angry workers said that after the passing of Hurricane IRMA management also told them that no one was going to be laid off because the company was properly insured and they were sure they would be compensated for business interruption and also for the damages the building sustained. However, management again fired a number of its workers and when they realized that it was only St. Maarten that sustained catastrophic damages from the hurricane and that the other islands were operating normally they then rehired new staff.