Union and Simpson Bay Resort close to deal at noon today

POSTED: 03/7/11 11:56 AM

St. Maarten – The Workers Institute for Organized Labor (Wifol) and the Simpson Bay Resort Owner Company (SBROC) should have a deal or not by 12:00 noon today. Parties met with the special mediators appointed by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on Saturday, but were not able to come to a consensus on a Memorandum of Understanding that will lead to the reopening of Simpson Bay Resort and Marina and The Villas at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina and the employees to return to work pending the outcome of an appeal by SBROC on a February 8 court ruling.

The talks on Saturday, led by Head of the Labor Department Rafael Boasman and the prime minister’s legal advisor Hensley Plantijn, did not end with an agreement because Wifol did not accept a request from SBROC to pay employees who sign a joint termination agreement cessantia based on the law while their collective labor agreement gives them a right to double what is in the law. The specific clause in the CLA states that people who have served between one and five years will get two weeks salary per year, those with six to 10 years will get 3.5 weeks per year and those with 11 years or more will get 4.5 weeks per year of salary.

“For those who just started it’s not a great deal of money, but for those who have been there for a number of years we’re talking quite a lot of money. Also it is not acceptable to waive the rights of the employees as it is stands in the CLA. That would set a precedent that will allow for other stipulations to be set aside,” attorney for Wifol Wim van Sambeek said.

In a revised text submitted by attorney J.G. Bloem on Sunday, after consultation with Maarten le Poole, the proposal is for employees who accept joint termination agreements before the appeal verdict is delivered will be paid cessantia based on the CLA. Wifol President Theophilus Thompson is to meet his attorneys today to discuss the latest draft of the agreement with an eye to finalizing it.

Wifol’s attorney Wim van Sambeek is also concerned that the agreement’s temporary nature – the duration of the appeal of the February 8 verdict – does not remove the uncertainty that the employees feel. He is also concerned that the government is providing “tax remedies” as part of the agreement. The latter decision will have budget consequences that the attorney says need to be clearly regulated and decided upon. He is also concerned that Royal Resorts does not want to be signatory either.

“The meeting was very positive and we were able to make strides. We had some changes and these were challenging for my client but I have discussed things with Mr. Le Poole and we’ve managed to change some wording to make this agreement acceptable to both parties,” Bloem said on Saturday night.

The Resort closed on February 20 after the Court in First Instance ruled on February 8 that SBROC has to respect the terms of the collective labor agreement which expires at the end of the year. In a statement they wrote, “Unforeseen circumstances have caused the new owner to incur significant unbudgeted expenses and judicial liabilities that require a massive financial injection in order to be able to responsibly operate the resort.” The resort’s closure led time share owners to file summary proceedings on Tuesday March 1 to press for the reopening. That matter will be heard by Judge Mr. Van Veen this Friday at three o’clock in the afternoon.


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