Letter to the editor: Granduca

POSTED: 01/21/13 12:41 PM

About two months ago I went to the Immigration Office where I left some information concerning illegal workers in restaurants in the Maho area and particularly at Granduca, where several workers have not been paid for several months. They are without pay-slip and without SZV card and they are working overtime and on holidays without being paid properly. They are insulted, misused and abused, morally harassed and discriminated. The workers on the floor don’t even know how much cash tips they do at the end of the evening. The employer keeps everything in his drawer. Only the boss and the Lord know how much cash and credit card tips and service charge guests leave for their waiters. This is highway robbery.

Two of the Granduca workers went to the Labor Department about two weeks before Christmas. No action was taken. A letter concerning this matter was left to the Minister of Labor on January 2.

One of these workers was on sick-leave between December 29 and January 5. On January 6 he went to work. January 7 was a Monday, his usual day-off, so he stayed at home. On that same day at 4:27 p.m. the boss called him:
-“Rui, you come to work today?” the employer asked.
-“No, I am off today.” Rui answered.
-“You were off six days!” Mr. Massimo Minacapilli answered.
-“No, Massimo. I was not off six days. I was sick,” Rui told the Granduca general manager.
-“You are finished working in Granduca.” the boss told Rui on the phone.
-“Massimo, I am off today, and tomorrow, I’ll be at Granduca, at 4:00 p.m., according to the schedules.”
-“Bye Massimo,” I said as soon as I heard the boss cursing me on the phone, in his own language.

January 8 was Rui’s birthday. He reached work 15 minutes before the schedule time. The employer tried to stop him from starting work. But he refused to stop working just like that. Rui told the employer: “There are three different ways you can use to stop me from continuing to work here: call the Labor Department, give me a letter saying the reason why you want to terminate me or pay me what you owe me.”

“NoNoNoNoNo.” he said in an ironic and violent manner.
Nevertheless, I continued working.
-“You out! You Out!” he screamed at me, in the kitchen, in front of my co-workers. I just ignored him and continued cleaning the glasses.

As I was getting very tired of that harassment I, again, told him:”Give me a letter and I am gone!”

Then he apparently understood my determination of not giving up the way he wanted so he would say that I had given up my job. Which would mean giving up my rights.
-“Okay! I’ll call Carlos to make the letter,” the boss said and immediately he called “Carlos please come fast!”

“No problem!” It was my answer to the boss without stopping to do what I was doing.

About two hours later Carlos arrived. The boss called me to the office; I obeyed immediately. The boss does not speak or understand English very well so Carlos was the mediator. He tried to convince me on behalf of the boss that our relationship was impossible, unbearable, which I totally disagreed buy valium by roche online with. “I have no problem to work with Massimo; it is Massimo who cannot work with me because I can pin point most of his wrongdoings at Granduca,” I told Carlos.
The boss wanted me to stop immediately. I insisted that there are procedures to follow. “According to St. Maarten Labor Laws when an employer want to fire an employee (as I already told Massimo), the employer must ask permission from the Labor Department. Or, give a letter to the employee specifying the reason why the employer wants to terminate him,” I told Carlos.

Around 10:00 p.m. Carlos came back with a letter that states the following:

“Dear Mr. Bagina,

This letter serves to inform you that we wish to terminate your Labor Contract agreement with us. the working relationship between you and the management has deteriorated in such a manner that we don’t think it will be possible to continue this working relationship.
Therefore, awaiting our final settlement we are kindly requesting you to leave the job immediately.”

Rui took this letter to the Labor Department. The Labor Inspector asked him if he has papers.
“Yes!” But I do not have them in my hands, because I do not have the 3,500 guilders I am requested to pay as a deposit, to obtain the residence document.

“Why?” Rui asked the Inspector.
“Because you’ll need a lawyer to get paid.”
“What?” Rui asked. “What is the Labor Department here for? I thought the Labor Department is to serve as mediator between the employer and the employee. So it means that I do not have to come back here?” He questioned the inspector with a bad feeling. This was the end of the conversation at the Labor Department.

I was feeling extremely frustrated while driving home. Telling myself I will not look for a job at all in St. Martin again – be it on the French side or the Dutch side. On both sides I have seen my labor and human rights violated. Whatever money I’ll get, I hope it will be enough to buy the flight ticket to get off this island. It is extremely painful to consider this, when you have to go far away from your family. Away from your wife and away from your kids. My presence has damaged my family much more, than I sincerely believe my absence will do. Instead to go into more, new details now, I suggest you all to remember the 25 days of hunger strike two years ago, in Marigot.

Of course, the employer at Granduca wants to terminate me so he will be able to continue exploiting the other workers in total freedom. He will be able to deal more comfortably, continue abusing them. Those workers won’t react to his illegalities. More than 30 workers were hired and fired between the beginning of the high season in 2012 and today.

The employer owes me salaries for September, October, November, December and tips. Just deduct 1,750 he gave me in cash. Other workers have the same problem, even the Italians who just arrived from Italy. One of the Italian workers fought with the boss in the kitchen. Actually he hit the boss in front of all of us.

Rui Bagina

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