Wifol to meet de Weever today on Pelican workers

POSTED: 03/13/13 12:10 PM

St. Maarten – The Wifol union is expected to meet with Labor Minister Cornelius de Weever from 2 p.m. today on the plight of workers of the former Pelican Resort. Union President Theophilus Thompson said that Wifol had made a commitment to the workers that it would not rest until they received justice.

“We did a lot of research and we put together a task force because what was done to those workers was unjust. It brings back very painful experiences to a lot of workers who have struggled for years trying to make a good life for themselves but were unable to see their dreams come through. They are still hurting,” Thompson said during the weekly Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions press conference yesterday.

When the Pelican Resort was bought by Royal Resorts some three years ago, employees expected a smooth transition from the Pelican Resort to the Simpson Bay Resort Management Company (SBRMC). However the new company brought with it new rules and employees who had worked for more than a decade at Pelican lost their permanent status and were asked to sign temporary work agreements. In a bid to maintain their years of service and benefits, the employees engaged Wifol union to petition the court to recognize them as automatic workers of the SBRMC.
The Court ruled in favor of the resort while Wifol became embroiled in a dispute with the Labor Department over whether correct dismissal procedures were used by the Pelican Resort before it sold its immovable property to SBRMC. Last year Minister de Weever admitted that something had gone wrong within his ministry which resulted in the workers being left out in cold with no benefits or payout for their years of service. They numbered more than 80 and while some accepted the packages that were then being offered by the SBRMC to secure employment, others have remained at home awaiting the outcome of their dispute with the Pelican Resort.

It was the union which requested the meeting with the minister with Thompson saying that all parties want the matter to be resolved fairly. This he hopes will be achieved during today’s meeting with Minister de Weever.

“We will not allow this matter to rest and circumstances to prevail; we must bring justice to these workers and end their plight. We will be very straightforward; we want this matter to be brought to a closure. The ball is now in the government’s court, they have to make a decision to resolve,” Thompson added.

He indicated that the union had found information suggesting that Pelican Resort still exists and since it did not file for bankruptcy, the government would now have to cushion the effect of lapses which ended up hurting the labor force.
“The Court made a decision that those employees are employees of the Pelican Resort contrary to what still we believe is different but we have to comply with the Court decision.

However, the company still exists, there is no bankruptcy involved here so it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that these workers receive what is rightfully due to them. They have not been working and the company has relinquished its responsibility even though it still exists. It means that based on our structure and system, the Labor Department is responsible for making sure that there is a conclusion to this plight,” Thompson reiterated.

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