Judge forbids Simpson Bay Resort to execute November 7 ruling

POSTED: 11/27/11 10:58 AM

Bloem appeals Wifol’s surprise victory in court

Attorney Van Sambeek (center) discusses the court ruling with Wifol President Thompson. To the left is attorney Maarten Le Poole.

St. Maarten – The attorney for the Simpson Bay Resort and Royal Resorts, Mr. Jairo Bloem, has appealed Friday morning’s court ruling that gives the Wifol-members the right to return to work, and obliged the resort to live up to the conditions set forth in the collective labor agreement. The court imposed a $25, 000 a day penalty for non-compliance with the ruling.

In a 17-page long petition Bloem asked the appeals court to suspend Friday morning’s ruling until there is a decision about the appeal; the attorney spelled out six legal mistakes in the contested decision, mostly of a technical nature. Among the arguments to suspend the ruling is the claim that the resort obtained a $3 million loan under conditions that no longer exist if it is obliged to keep paying the Wifol-workers based on their collective labor agreements. The court ruling puts the loan facility in jeopardy and makes it likely that the Simpson Bay Resort will not be able to meet its financial obligations this month.

Emotion erupted inside and outside the courthouse yesterday morning after Judge Mr. R.W.J. van Veen ruled against the Simpson Bay resort and marina and in favor of the Wifol-union. Wifol’s attorneys Maarten le Poole and Wim van Sambeek looked stunned when Judge van Veen pronounced the verdict shortly after eight thirty. Before the court session opened, Mr. Le Poole told this newspaper that he thought the chances for a positive outcome were slim at best. But when it became clear that Simpson Bay Resort is not allowed to execute the November 4 and November 7 rulings of the appeals court and that the resort must abide by the collective labor agreement, there were big smiles all around.

Wifol-President Theophilus Thompson, the attorneys and several Wifol-members embraced each other. United People’s Party faction leader Romain Laville was in the court room in apparent support of the Wifol-members. Outside, Laville said that his political future “looks as bright as ever.” Last week, Laville made a firm stand in favor of the Wifol-employees during an emotional debate in parliament, but in the end he backed down and voted against an opposition-motion that condemned his fellow-faction member Jules James for dismissing their employees in his function as the resort’s general manager.

The court has now ruled that the Simpson Bay Resort and royal resorts have to abide by the collective labor agreement and that they have to continue paying the employees’ salaries until the Supreme Court has rejected Wifol’s appeal against the November 4 and 7 ruling in cassation, or until – in case the supreme court rules that the cassation is founded – until the appeals court has pronounced a new ruling.

The legal arguments in the ruling are rather technical. They boil down to the fact that the judge in summary proceedings used its authority to forbid Simpson Bay Resorts and royal resorts to execute the November 4 and 7 court rulings. This decision is based on the fact that the November 4 ruling contained a factual mistake (the argument that the Wifol-attorneys had filed their memorandum in reply too late), and that the November 7 ruling, which attempted to correct this mistake, is based on legal mistakes.

Outside the courthouse, Wifol president Thompson and the attorneys were welcomed by a celebrating crowd of workers. There was a significant police presence around the courthouse, probably because the authorities anticipated trouble in case the ruling had gone the other way. But the dozen or so officers had an easy morning, watching an explosion of happiness.

When Simpson Bay resorts attorney Mr. Jairo Bloem left the courthouse, he was followed through the streets towards the parking lot on Clem Labega Square by jeering Wifol-members.

Shortly afterwards, the workers met at the Wifol-building on the Longwall Road. Outside, and later inside, the people’s emotions were palpable. Thompson addressed his members under thunderous applause and loud cheers. National Alliance MP Hyacinth Richardson and opposition leader William Marlin made an appearance to congratulate the people with their court victory.
“This is a happy day for us. Victory!” Thompson said. “We are going back to work. The 49 who are sitting at home, they are going back to work.”

Thompson said that the November 4 ruling was a technical blunder by the appeals court. Happy as he also was with the positive outcome of the court case, Thompson warned, “This does not mean that the war is over. But this is a very important victory for the workers. In one and a half hour everybody will report back to work. The judge has taken a decision and we no longer accept Jules James as the judge.”

Thompson said that the court decision will not be taken lightly by the business community. “Everybody has been looking at this case – every union, and every employer. This judge has shown his legal independence. The verdict of the appeals court was not a fair one. But the war is not over because we still have to go to the Supreme Court.”

William Marlin congratulated the Wifol-members with their legal victory. “We do have businesses that apply good business practices,” he said, “But if we allow business people to get away with this, there will never be security for you and your families. You have been treated as a tool; when you were no longer needed, you were put aside.”

Marlin said that St. Maarten continues to have the best social system in the region. “Slavery was abolished a long time ago. We must prevent businesses from becoming the plantations of the 21st century.”

Marlin briefly referred to his party’s proposal to put a stop to abuse with 6-month contracts. “Be vigilant,” he told the Wifol-members. “The war continues, so keep up the fight. You have partners in the National Alliance.”

Then it was time for the employees to make the trek to Pelican Key and to report for work at the resort. That enterprise turned out to be a cooler because general manager Jules James was nowhere to be found, and the acting manager told Thompson that he was unable to take any decisions. Soon it turned out that James was in meetings at the parliament. The workers returned to the Wifol-building for further consultation.

James did not return a text message this newspaper sent him. Later yesterday afternoon bailiff Karl Arrindell served a copy of the verdict to James.


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