KFC labor dispute continues

POSTED: 11/20/12 1:50 PM

St. Maarten – Shop steward for the Wifol union Ramona Vasquez  says that she was assured by the union president Theophilus Thompson that she would have received her bi-weekly salary payment from employer Q.F.S Enterprises N.V doing business as Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) by 3:00 p.m. yesterday. But when Today contacted the customer service representative who has been embroiled in a labor dispute with KFC since 2010, when she was wrongfully accused of stealing, she said that she was yet to see a penny of her earnings.

Factually, Vasquez did not actually work the first two weeks of November as she was on sick leave. She had her doctor card signed by her house doctor and the SZV control doctor and then submitted it to her employer. But last Wednesday, when all of the other KFC employees were paid, Vasquez was left out in the cold. Her employer claimed that ever since 2010 she has consistently reported sick, close to 75 percent of her working days over the last three days according to Today’s count of the statistics presented in a letter KFC submitted to both the SZV and Wifol. The company took the decision not to pay Vasquez especially since on two of the days that she was claiming a sickness payment for; she had attended two Wifol meetings. It told the SZV in a letter dated November 9 that until it receives a response from SZV about the matter it would not be making any payments to the employee who has worked with the company for the past 24 years.

Vasquez sought the intervention of Thompson to get the company to release her salary. It is unclear whether KFC’s management actually gave Thompson that assurance. When Today contacted General Manager Derryck Jack, he said that not everything we published in our November 17 issue concerning the situation was factual. This merely presented Vasquez’s version of events and in the absence of an interview with Jack, published the contents of several letters that he had written concerning the tumultuous relationship between Vasquez and the company.

Yesterday, Jack politely declined to comment on the issue, only offering that “It is a labor dispute and until such time that it is resolved we will not be making any public statements. We do not want this to play out in the public.”

Both scenarios have been an Achilles heel on St. Maarten, where employees often abuse SZV doctor card systems and employers cheat employees out of sickness benefit. Neither situation is legal. Vasquez says that she plans to take the matter all the way to the Labour Mediator if warranted. The Ministry of Labour has consistently emphasized that it represents employers and employees for the protection of the interests and rights of both groups.

Vasquez’s case comes at a time when Wifol is negotiating the signing of a collective labor agreement (CLA) for all workers of KFC.

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