WIFOL returns to court and files complaint with ILO

POSTED: 01/19/12 1:59 PM

St. Maarten – Workers Institute for Organized Labor (WIFOL), which represents the employees of Pelican Resort the Management Company, has filed a new court case against Royal Resort and Simpson Bay Resort Management Company to force them to honor the Collective Labor Agreement (CLA) for Line Staff and Supervisors of the former Pelican Resort. The union has also announced that it will file a complaint against the Government of St. Maarten for supporting Simpson Bay Resort Management Company in contravening ILO conventions 87, 98 and 154, which give guidelines on the freedom of association, protection of the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining.

New court case

The petition filed by the union’s lawyers is a procedure on the merits and unlike the two summary proceedings will provide for a longer consideration of all the facts by the court and for parties to call witnesses. The decision was made to file the new proceedings because the union says it has been unable to set up a meeting with either Royal Resort or Simpson Bay Resort Management Company.

“WIFOL is of the opinion that, both the Court in First Instance and the Common Court will come to the conclusion that both RR and SBRMC are bound by the “Pelican CLA” and that those defendants will be ordered to fully respect the CLA and pay the members of WIFOL in accordance with the CLA. A verdict is expected within a relatively short period. Moreover, WIFOL has requested the Court to render a specific court order prior to a decision on the merits. WIFOL hopes that this court order will be render,” the union’s President Theophilus Thompson said.

A victory for the union in these latest court proceedings will mean that “deviations” from the CLA that led to lower rights and benefits will have to be reimbursed.

The attorney for both Royal Resorts and Simpson Bay Resort Jairo Bloem was not available for comment at press time.

ILO Complaint

The complaint to the ILO is being filed because the union is based on an opinion that the government did not live up to its commitments under the conventions 87, 98 and 154 at the moment it choose to encourage members of WIFOL to bypass the union and enter into individual employment agreements. A key point in the complaint will be the fact that a certain politician/director (United People’s Party Member of Parliament Jules James) has a double role in the entire affair.

“WIFOL holds the opinion that government has not encouraged RR and SBRMC to enter into negotiations with WIFOL, but to the contrary, lend its support to the way RR and SBRMC ignored the collective bargaining interests of the members of WIFOL,” Thompson states in his release.

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever said that the union is “free to use any means to accomplish its goals” and that the filing is “their prerogative” when he was asked about the filing on Wednesday night.

“I will await the filing and the formal notification before I make any further statements,” de Weever said.

Undermining workers

The union also slams the government for not investigating the fact that “a large number of undocumented workers” are working at the resort via employment agencies.

“Those workers are working under conditions which are in violation of local laws, kingdom laws and ILO Convention No. 181.  WIFOL regrets that neither the immigration department nor the labor department has checked those persistent rumors that some of the vacancies at the resort have not been filled in accordance with the laws. As far as WIFOL is aware, none of these agencies have been scrutinized by the inspectorate either,” Thompson said.

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