Opinion: Pyrrhic victory?

POSTED: 05/2/12 12:00 PM

The Common Court of Justice rejected Simpson Bay Resort’s request to freeze the April 2-ruling that obliges the company to rehire all Wifol-members who were formerly employed at the former Pelican resort, to pay them retroactively based on their collective labor agreement and to pay their union $50,000.

The question is now what this court victory is worth for the union and its members. Wifol-President Theophilus Thompson seemed elated with the outcome of the court case, but he knows very well that this story is not over yet. On June 27 the same common court (though most likely with different judges) will hear the resort’s appeal against the April 2-ruling.

Nevertheless, the Wifol finds itself now in a position to execute the ruling and to knock on the resort’s door for payment. There is a catch though: in case the resort wins the appeal in June and Wifol has started to execute the ruling, it will be confronted with claims for repayment.

The resort is confident that it will prevail in the appeals court, but it still remains to be seen which way that particular ruling will go.

In the meantime, several things could happen. Wifol could for instance insist on executing the sentence. The reaction from the resort will be that it will “most likely” close down. If that happens, there will be not a penny for the Wifol-members that lost their job and there won’t be a penny either for the union itself.

The key question is whether the resort will walk away from its investment, or that the close down simply means that timeshare owners will have to put up with a lack of services.

Wifol could of course also decide not to execute the ruling and knock on the resort’s door with other plans in mind: negotiations. So far, all attempts to negotiate have fallen on deaf ears with the resort, confident as it is that it has acted within its rights. If those negotiations fail, or do not even materialize, Wifol has a third option and that is to wait for the ruling on appeal. Financially that seems the safest router, though we imagine that the membership is expecting a firmer course of action.

In the meantime, the controversy has spilled over into other areas. The fight between the resort and the union has always been about two things: the interests of the owners, and the interests of the employees. It was never about the interests of the timeshare owners.

One of them, Richard Caparso from Massachussets dropped us a line this weekend. It is a poignant one-liner that sums it all up. Caparso wrote: “Unless the government of St Maarten votes in timeshare protection I will sell my 10 weeks of timeshare as many others have done and find another island to winter in.”

That’s clear isn’t it? In court the resort’s attorney said last month that the losses for unsold timeshare units amount to $100,000 a month.

Now we see a movement coming from timeshare owners wanting to sell their weeks in St. Maarten. An exodus of timeshare owners will have dire consequences for the local economy – a statement that requires no further explanation.

We know that there are talks ongoing between MP de Weever and individual timeshare owners about timeshare legislation. But those talks are taking too long. De Weever already presented an initiative to parliament in June of last year. Since then all we have heard about the topic is that it is “complicated.”

We are quite ready to believe that, but the way things are going now, some urgent action from the side of the government or then parliament is desperately needed. That’s where the Calypso-coup comes in: with the changing of the guard we fear that nothing meaningful will happen for quite some time.

Wifol’s court-victory makes of course for a nice headline but whether the union has really won anything else but time with it remains to be seen. It could very well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

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