LITTLE BAY–Several executives from Divi Little Bay Beach Resort’s head office in the United States will be in St. Maarten on Tuesday, October 17, to meet with the Workers Institute for Organised Labour (WIFOL) on the grievances of the resort workers.
WIFOL President Theophilus Thompson told The Daily Herald on Friday that the union received written correspondence from the company confirming that the Regional Director for Divi Operations Jan Ten Have and Chief Operations Officer (COO) Marco Galaverna will be amongst the company’s top brass to meet with the union on the matter.
The meeting with the regional officials comes on the heels of a protest action held by workers on Thursday at the entrance of the resort, to contest management’s move to reduce their work week and consequently their pay.
The company reduced the work week of its staffers from six to three days. The workers said they toiled arduously over the past weeks to clean the property following the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and as soon as they completed the cleaning, management sprung the reduced work week on them and sent them home on Thursday after they worked the three days offered earlier this week.
They said also that management offered them food during the time they showed up to clean, only to deduct the food allowance from their salary. The workers said they did not have a choice and indicated that if the company’s intention was to deduct the meal allowance from their salaries, this should have been made clear to them from the inception.
Thompson had told this newspaper after meeting with local management on Thursday that the union made it clear to local management that their decision to send home employees and give them a shorter work week than what is stipulated in the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) was in violation of the country’s labour laws and the CLA. Thompson said the local manager said reducing the work week was instructions given to him from Divi’s head office.
Slashing the work week in half is not something that the union will accept. The CLA has provisions for an amendment to the work week, if occupancy falls below a certain level that it will affect the income of the resort. However, that this can only be done via negotiations, Thompson said. WIFOL had proposed reducing the work week by one day – so from six to five days. Any amendments to the CLA have to be done via negotiations.
Thompson said many companies have business interruption insurance, which includes loss of income and payment of wages, but he insisted that they are refusing to present the insurance for the union to review. The union requested to see Divi’s insurance policy and the union is awaiting an answer. The union was told that the head office has the policy in its possession.
In the meantime, Divi’s Acting General Manager Thijs Scheepers had said earlier that the company has permanent and contracted workers “and for us everyone is important and we want to ensure that everyone is taken care of.” The Acting General Manager said he knows the situation is very hard for staffers, noting “we are trying our best with what we have.”
Divi had a total of about 183 workers prior to Hurricane Irma and the company now has between 160 to 170 workers currently. “And we are still paying them,” he said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70096-divi-overseas-executives-to-meet-with-wifol-tuesday