MP Jules James under fire for double-role in Simpson Bay Resort saga

POSTED: 11/18/11 5:19 AM

Emotional debate in parliament brings Wifol-workers no relief

United People’s Party faction leader Romain Laville walks out of Thursday’s debate on the dismissal of one hundred employees at the Simpson Bay Resort.

St. Maarten – Jules James spent an unpleasant afternoon and evening in parliament during the debate about the dismissal of one hundred employees at the Simpson Bay Resort. The debate was at times emotional, and in the end it almost split the governing coalition, when it looked like faction leader Romain Laville was going to vote for a motion of the National Alliance that put the blame for the situation the workers find themselves in clearly at the feet of the fellow-parliamentarian Jules James.
In the end, after making a stand, Laville toned it down; first he wanted to abstain and after DP-MP De Weever pointed out that this was not possible and that he had to vote for or against, he left the meeting. Remarkably, the subject of the motion, Jules James, remained in the meeting and voted against the motion that was voted down by 7 to 6.

United People’s Party Member of Parliament Jules James was heavily criticized on Thursday for his actions as Simpson Bay Resort’s general manager, with some of his colleagues calling for him to resign from the company or as an MP.
A watered down version of the motion that did pass with a vote of 7-0 (with James voting for the motion) did not sit well with the Wifol-workers that attended the meeting. The motion was not carried because it required a minimum of eight votes. They left angrily after the first motion was voted down. The opposition left the meeting as well. The coalition-motion will not bring any relief to the Wifol-workers who were put on the street after the appeals court ruled on November 4 in favor of the resort, and relieved it of its obligation to abide by the collective labor agreement Wifol signed for its members with the resort’s previous owner. The employees will still have to wait for the outcome of the lawsuit the union filed earlier this week in an attempt to block the execution of the November 4 court ruling. The verdict is expected on Wednesday, or otherwise next Friday. If the union takes its case to the Supreme Court, the resort is still free to execute the ruling and keep the workers that are now at home on the outside.
UP-faction leader Romain Laville did not manage to get his faction behind a unified motion. In the second round of the lengthy debate, he made clear that he stood alone.
“The actions of the company in question do not have my support. I will not defend it. I will not throw a colleague under the bus either, but I have to stand with the people of St. Maarten, even if this may be my last go around in politics. I have fought a good fight, but cannot do this by myself. I know how dirty this game can be, and some may see this as political suicide, but I have to do what is right. To the workers I say, do not lose hope. Even it costs me my seat, I have tied my shoes tonight.”
The National Alliance motion was supported by all five faction members and independent MP Frans Richardson. The motion describes how Simpson Bay Resort’s general manager Jules James dismissed about 100 unionized workers after the November 4 court ruling that went in the resort’s favor. The workers were informed verbally and not given a valid reason for their dismissal.
“This is a clear violation of St. Maarten’s labor laws by general manager Jules James,” the motion states.
The original National Alliance motion describes the actions by James as “clear examples of excessive abuse of power.” To remain employed the dismissed workers were given the option to immediately sign a 6-month contract, the motion states. Replacing permanent workers with employees via employment agencies, who are mostly offered work for two to three days a week, the motion states, is a practice aimed at “eradicating permanent workers and circumventing St. Maarten’s labor laws.”
Later UP faction leader Romain Laville presented a watered-down version that left out any reference to James. DP’s Roy Marlin defended that motion, saying that the National Alliance motion was not factual, and partly based on hearsay. He was jeered by angry Wifol members later in the evening as he left the meeting with a security detail protecting him.
Wifol President Theophilus Thompson labeled R. Marlin’s statements ridiculous.
“James told the workers to go leave the premises. It’s utter nonsense.”
Lastly, the motion stated that if general manager James sticks to his decision to dismiss the 100 workers, “this can lead to social and labor unrest in the country, which in turn can have a negative impact on the overall economy.”
The NA motion declares the parliament in solidarity with the workers, denounces general manager Jules James’ actions to dismiss the workers, calls on Simpson Bay Resorts to keep the employees on its payroll, and to keep Wifol as the union representing their interests; lastly the motion calls on the government “to use whatever influence, powers and authority it might have” to intervene on behalf of the dismissed workers.
National Alliance faction members used their speaking time to put their fellow MP Jules James of the United People’s Party, who is also the general manager of the Simpson Bay Resort, at the center of the debate.
MP Louie Laveist opened the attack saying that at the core of the dispute is one of us.
“This is a call to duty to determine whether we will uphold the basic morals that are expected from us as parliamentarians.”
Laveist said that he was addressing Jules James as the managing director of the Simpson Bay Resort, not as a member of parliament. He described replacing permanent workers with temp workers as exploitation and said that, because of James’ position in the affair, “this puts the integrity of all parliamentarians on the line. Are we going to do what is right, or are we going to protect one of our own.”
Laveist warned that other companies are watching.
“They are watching and waiting, and maybe they are already lining up to do the same thing.”
He pointed to the conflict of interest with James being the resort’s general manager and a parliamentarian.
“We must stand up and condemn this greed,” he concluded.
His fellow faction member Lloyd Richardson said that there is a difference between morality and legality.
“Fairness has been re-laced by an element of money making.”
Richardson criticized employers who, he said, have teams of lawyers telling them how to circumvent the system.
“Other employers are learning from these tricks. This will lead to anarchy.”
Richardson conceded that a decision is in the hands of the court.
“The court can decide what it wants, but the employer (i.e. Simpson Bay Resort – ed.) ought to be reasonable.”
Independent MP Frans Richardson pointed out that the people had given James the opportunity to become a member of parliament.
“You ought to resign from the company in order to save it some money,” he said.
Richardson said that not only the 100 fired employees are suffering at the hands of the resort.
“It also has voided contracts with local businesses. It is like they are going after everything that is local. The master plan was to bring in the Mexican to run the place. It is sad that one of our colleagues in parliament is involved.”
Richardson referred to the full-page ads the resort published in local media and that were signed by James as its general manager.
“You are either with us in this country, or you are with them,” he said, adding that “a lot of investors don’t really care about this island anymore.”
Hyacinth Richardson (NA) warned the parliament that the island is “in for a rude awakening.”
“We may witness the same thing that happened in Curacao,” he said, referring to the May 30, 1969 revolt in Willemstad.
“There will come a moment that the people will unite.”
H. Richardson was the first one to say that James, without mentioning him by name, ought to resign from parliament.
“I believe that the member should do the honorable thing: step aside if you don’t want to defend the workers.”
Opposition leader William Marlin said that the parliament cannot ignore the development at the resort with the argument that there is an ongoing court case and that the judge ought to decide. “We also have to consider morality and the social well-being of the people. Companies are no longer the corporate citizens that treat their employees as family. Instead they use on-call contracts to abuse the workers.”
When the Wifol court ruling was overturned on November 4, Marlin said, the company owners and its general manger were celebrating.
“More than a hundred people were sent home. This is excessive abuse of power. They’re saying, I’ve got you like a drowning rat. I am going to throw you one last piece of cheese. Bite it, and if you, don’t smoke your pipe. If you want a job, sign here now, but all I can give you is a 6-month contract.”
Marlin said that the resort is out to maximize profits at all costs.
“They live the life of a fat cat and they let the people who have worked there for 20 years suck salt. It is heartless and shameless. We will not stand by and turn a blind eye.”

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Comments (2)


  1. Dave in DC says:

    The former Pelican owners warned the SXM government over and over that this would happen. That Royal Resorts and Quantum Investment were not “White Knights” as they claimed to be. They stated they were only stepping in to save the Resort and protect their investment. We screamed they are two faced. They will bring in workers from other countries as soon as they can, kill ties with and jobs for the people of SXM, and use the resort to take money out of SXM and move it to Belize. No one seemd to care.

    As owners of the Pelican Resort we were not some giant corporation looking to make a profit or pad our own pockets. We were families just like the people who worked at the resort. When we lost it too RR and QIT (A.K.A. James, Corso, and Sutton) we begged the government to step in and help us. Instead they ignored us because we were not natives and this was “not their fight”.

    Now IT IS YOUR FIGHT and you have let the snake get even more powerful by not taking care of it a year ago when you had the chance. The people and government of SXM now have to deal with a greedy corporation and a member of parliament who does not care about family or morality or ethics.

    Open your ears. The giant sucking sound you hear is the continued loss of jobs, tourist dollars, and your reputation as the “friendly island”. Stop them before their disease spreads to other resorts or companies.

    By the way Jules James, what does it say about the choices you have made in life that you need security guards to keep you safe? Ask yourself “how hated am I, and more importantly why?” The answers to that alone should tell you that you are not a good man. But then with all your devil money you really don’t care do you?

  2. Bill Williams says:

    “Excessive abuse of power”. The excessive abuse of power would be for the government to force a private company to keep employed people they do not need or can afford. This is nothing more than being an enforcer for the union.