Twelve workers at Divi Little Bay win injunction over their salaries | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Twelve workers at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort have won the injunction filed against their employer concerning payment of their salaries after Hurricane Irma severely damaged the resort in September 2017.

On Friday, the Judge ordered the resort’s management to pay 75 per cent of the workers’ salaries from November 1, 2017, and their full salaries from May 1, 2018, until the labour agreements have been legally terminated, with legal interest and legal increases of up to 10 per cent. The resort was also ordered to pay the legal costs of the procedure.

Divi Little Bay Beach Resort was closed after its touristic infrastructure was severely damaged by Irma on September 6, 2017. The resort reopened May 1. 2018.

The workers received two proposals from their employer during the period of reconstruction. The first option mentioned in a letter of November 14, 2017, entailed severance payment and a payoff as provided to retirees. This would terminate employment with the resort, but employees would be eligible for rehire after the resort’s reopening.

The second option, for those not choosing to accept severance payment, concerned reduced work under which the resort would guarantee two days of work per week until reopening. Employees choosing this option had to agree to be available for work as directed by the resort, because work in their regular positions would not be available. Normal jobs were to be resumed after reopening of the resort.

By letter of November 2017, the Labour Office informed the resort that the 12 employees did not agree with the proposals and that they were still in paid employment.

That same day the resort informed the labour union that two days of guaranteed wages per week was the best compromise available in light of the resort’s closure.

“We recognize it isn’t fair to employees who have chosen to compromise in this difficult situation to receive the same pay as those who don’t. Therefore, the resort has decided to continue to pay one day of wages each week to staff who don’t agree to one of the compromise actions. Those employees will not be required to work for this pay,” the resort stated in a letter.

Eventually, more than 75 per cent of workers agreed with one of the two options. The 12 litigants belonged to the approximately 25 per cent of workers who did not agree and who called on the Court to award them full payment of their wages.

The Court agreed with the resort that the damage caused by Irma was sufficient reason for the resort to submit a “reasonable” proposal to change the labour agreements of these 12 employees.

However, the Judge noted that the resort had failed to provide (consolidated) annual reports over the past few years; a specified damage and assessment report; a motivated assessment from the insurer about payment for damage; a liquidity prognosis; and a detailed reconstruction plan.

“The employer should have realized that these types of data are necessary with such far-reaching adaptations of the primary labour conditions,” the Judge stated in the verdict.

The Court said the resort had failed to make sufficiently clear whether it was reasonable to expect their employees to accept receiving much less wages.

“By not presenting these data, or at least only to a very limited extent, the employer does not allow the Court of First Instance to properly assess the reasonableness of the proposal in this summary proceeding,” the Judge said.

The Court stated it would be a “good thing” if the 12 workers and their employer would present this case in a court case on the merits.

“The employees could then try to obtain 100 per cent of their wages and the employer could try to convince the Judge of the reasonableness of its proposal, so that less has to be paid. It would be even better if the employees, the trade union and the employer started to negotiate with each other,” the Judge added.

Source: The Daily Herald