Today’s Opinion: The Pelican Resort sagaPOSTED: 02/12/11 1:23 PM
The Pelican Resort Club saga took a new turn yesterday when the management of what is now called the Simpson Bay Resort & Marina that it will close down on February 20th. It is a move in a high pressure game of chess that plays with the livelihood of 182 employees and their families.
And what an emotional rollercoaster ride it has been this week for those people. On Monday, the Court in First Instance ruled in summary proceedings that the Simpson Bay Resort Management Company is obliged to honor the collective labor agreements its predecessor had signed with the employees. That ruling led to an eruption of joy and happiness.
On Thursday, the attorney for the Wifol union demanded that the resort admits the employees back to work. The court had not included this obligation in its ruling because the union and not the individual members was the party that had filed the law suit – and the union does not go to work at resorts; its members do.
On Friday the management company denied the demand, and now the employees are heading for a Valentine weekend of worry. What is going to happen next?
The resort closes down next week Sunday, but it is only for the time being, “until solutions are found.”
That indicates already that the resort is not going to disappear in a big black hole. The closure feels more like an orchestrated attempt to put pressure on the other side and, of course, on the government, where politicians have already expressed their concern about losing millions of dollars in revenue if the resort really closes its doors.
A likely scenario is that the resort owners will come up with a new construction to separate the main beneficiary, Royal Resorts, from the former and current owners.
A new entity will appear, run by managers that have no traceable connections with Royal Resorts, and it will make a bid to save the resort. It will, of course, set one condition: it does not want to be bound by obligations towards any collective labor agreement, or towards any of the 182 former Pelican Resort Club employees.
This new company will, however, have jobs to offer to anyone who wants them. And the way we think this is going to go, that new company will get the support from the body politics, because the government nor the parliament wants the blood on its hands of 182 unemployed citizens.
That not all of them will get a job under the new management, and that the conditions under which those that will be accepted might be a tad less generous than they were used to, is a price politicians will probably be ready to pay.
Behind the scenes, invisible and untraceable, Royal Resort will still keep control of the operation, but the construction will be set up in such a way that no one will ever be able to prove it.
It will be worth noting whether the government will finally look into the status of Royal Resorts, a company that is not established in St. Maarten but in Belize, but also a company that skims ten percent of the maintenance fees timeshare owners at the Pelican Resort pay as a compensation for tits management services. Royal Resort also gets compensated for the personnel it employs to render those services and for air travel and other expenses.
On the revenue from maintenance fees, Royal Resort ought to pay 3 percent turnover tax, and the question is now whether the company ever did this. Tantalizing detail: Member of Parliament Jules James is, together with Royal Resorts, a statutory director of the Simpson Bay resort Management Company.
One may well wonder if a Member of Parliament ought to associate with a company that is not paying turnover tax over the generous revenues it generates from its management services.
And maybe, just maybe, we have it all wrong. Maybe Royal Resorts will really withdraw from the operation. Maybe Royal Resorts does pay turnover tax. Maybe manager Jules James will get out of this business and finally devote his time to his full time job as a Member of Parliament. And maybe Easter and Pentecost will fall on the same day this year.