“Government shows no concern for the plight of these people”

POSTED: 12/23/11 1:24 PM

Union leaders Claire Elshot and Theophilus Thompson.

Thompson criticizes James and Labor Minister over Simpson Bay Resort

St. Maarten – Wifol president Theophilus Thompson is disappointed in the fact that no meeting has taken place so far with Labor Affairs Minister Cornelius de Weever to discuss the plight of the Wifol-members whose jobs at the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina are in limbo.

“Initially we saw anxiety and eagerness from the side of the government to have a meeting with the unions and with the resort management. Now the situation is that 145 workers are unemployed and the government has absolutely no interest in resolving the matter,”

Thompson said yesterday morning at a press conference in the Wifol-building, in the presence of Claire Elshot, like Thompson a Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions member and also the Teachers Union’s president.

Thompson blasted resort manager and United People’s party parliamentarian Jules James.

“The action of one parliamentarian who made a hasty decision with far-reaching consequences has not only affected these workers but also their entire households. The government has not shown any concern for the plight of these people. This is a blatant disregard of their rights as workers and their human rights as well.”

Thompson said that the union is still working on new ways to challenge the decision by the resort to put the Wifol-members out of a job.

“We will pursue the regular court proceedings,” he said. “We have lost 95 percent of our confidence in the appeals court, so now we will follow a different route.”

The union-leader said that his members are ready “to take whatever industrial action necessary” to arrive at a satisfactory solution. Thompson expressed again his disappointment in Minister de Weever.

“The resort has made a request for a casino license. When we asked the minister about it he said that it was not his portfolio but that of the Economic Affairs Minister. He promised to get in touch with him and to get back to us but so far we haven’t heard anything.”

Thompson said that he is wondering, “Whether there is something like a blackmail situation going on behind the scenes that prevents the government from taking a clear position.”

One of the unsolved mysteries in the Simpson Bay Resort saga is the company’s request for the dismissal of 49 employees. The labor office has to take a decision about such requests within six weeks.

“We are five months later and there is still no decision,” Thompson said.

The current labor legislation sets the maximum term for decision about dismissals indeed at six weeks. In special circumstances, the Labor Affairs Minister has the authority to extend this term one time with another six weeks. Since the dismissal requests were submitted in July, the decision has now gone beyond both terms.

Thompson said that the employees were paid up to last month, but that they did not receive their salaries last Thursday.

“They should have received their Christmas-bonus but they did not get that either.”

The 37 Wifol-members that opted to sign a new short term contract have, according to Thompson, been robbed of all their benefits.

“They signed out of desperation,” he said.

While not all contracts are identical, the general assumption is that they are short term contracts and that the resort will be able to let any employee who is currently working under such a contract run the risk to lose his or her job when the contract ends.

Thompson pointed out however, that the employees signed these contracts under duress and that this circumstance gives them legal options further down the road. While Thompson remains optimistic, he wonders why the leader of the United People’s Party, Vice prime Minister Theo Heyliger and the government remain silent about the situation his members finds themselves in.

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