Husband demonstrates for his wife’s job

POSTED: 01/10/13 1:01 PM

GREAT BAY – St. Maartener Alberto Bute has been demonstrating for the past three days against jewelry store Colombian Emeralds on behalf of his wife Eartha who worked for the company for 6 years. The husband attached bright colored paper to his clothes, and hands out flyers to pedestrians in front of the store on Front Street in an attempt to get attention from local authorities for the issue to be addressed properly.  The store management declined to comment on the situation.

After the jewelry store fired Bute’s wife a year ago for unknown reasons, Alberto Bute did not just let that pass by and fought for her rights. He followed the procedures by writing letters to the labor department and took the store to court. They won the case against Colombian Emeralds because of what Bute says “everything was unjustly done.”

During his investigation, Bute discovered several loopholes in the system which he claims the jewelry store took advantage of. “The system is very venerable and workers who want to file complaints do not know their own rights and therefore lose the case throughout the process,” Bute said.

Bute discovered these faults in what he called ‘the old system with a lack of structure’ and wrote about it to the secretary general, the Parliament and started a case at the Ombudsman. When he sat before the labor tribunal he also pointed out the whole process of other people who have been going through the same saga and that the system does not work in their favor. “The workers do not know their full rights,” he said.

Eartha Bute had her husband as an advisor who sat into those meetings, wrote letters and therefore won the case against the store. “After we won the case against them they had to let her back to work, something that they did not do. With this decision they structurally pushed her into poverty.”

Colombian Emerald first offered Eartha to determine her contract with the store; when the couple did not agree with the proposal the company kept her home trying to find an agreement in the meantime. Bute’s wife gets paid a minimum base salary of $690 a month; she initially made between $1500 and $1800, based on commission. “How do you expect to make a living when the minimum salary what is paid to my wife is not even half of what she used to earn. She can’t support a family on that, not to mention the bills that are still coming in,” Bute said.

With this case his wife is currently in a stranglehold. Bute is determined to give a voice to all the people who are struggling with the same issues. ” After the hearing at the Labor tribunal, after discovering the systematic crafty setup by the department and Labor tribunal, I immediately took it upon myself as a citizen and chairperson of various social and civil entities on St. Maarten to address and expose these practices and abuses to all parties from government, parliament, the Ombudsman, the Social Economic Council, labor unions, and non-governmental organizations.  This public awareness campaign is exposing the deceit and crafty structural deficient system either inherited or by design,” he says. ” As a consequence of my campaign the parliament is preparing a date for a live televised hearing for us to make our finding s known.  The Ombudsman also was petitioned and has started investigating the matter and will forward it recommendation to government and parliament, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor has recalled some laws and is busy bringing changes to recently proposed (cosmetic) laws for changes, and has started consulting a broader based body of labor unions and civil society on new proposed laws. This unique case has brought many ills to light and benefitted workers in general on St. Maarten, so all in all I thank God and all involved regardless of their role in this struggle, it is a matter of social justice,” he continued.

Alberto Bute will continue to demonstrate on a daily base on Front Street for the rights of his wife. “I will not stop until the problem is addressed and we see improvement for my wife, maybe tomorrow I will come in the store’s colors, bright green, so I will be more noticed than before.”


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