President of WIFOL Theophilus Thompson stands outside Effy on Front Street.
PHILIPSBURG–Workers from Effy Jewellers St. Maarten are demanding to be paid salaries owed as they continue to fight against management to comply with a court verdict.
On Tuesday, workers joined by President of the Workers Institute for Organised Labour (WIFOL) Theophilus Thompson, went to the store on Front Street to address management about the store’s refusal to follow through with the court verdict won and pay workers what they are due.
According to Thompson, management on St. Maarten maintained that this is out of their hands and is an issue to be dealt with by regional offices.
Workers said that this has been an ongoing issue that started in March 2020. Workers were initially told that stores were closed temporarily in March, due to the pandemic, but did not get any other response from management until June 2020.
One worker said that even after the store received St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) payroll support, workers were still not paid 80 per cent of the salaries and were instead paid only 50 per cent of their salary. Several workers eventually took this to the Labor Department. “I approached the Labor Office with some colleagues … ever since Effy Jewellers stopped corresponding with me; they called me in to sign a termination letter without any prior notice; they filed one court case after another on me; refused to comply with any of the verdicts, all of which were in my favour [and – Ed.] for over a year Effy Jewellers left me without any salary,” they exclaimed.
In September, these workers said, they received a termination letter from management. The workers said that in October Effy Jewellers again tried to settle by offering a severance package. They refused this, as they said payment for salaries owed, commission and other fees would not be provided.
The workers took Effy Jewellers to court and eventually won the case. They said based on the court verdict Effy Jewellers was to pay the workers their full salaries owed from 2020 and continue to pay the workers until their contracts had been legally terminated.
According to the workers, in February of this year, Effy Jewellers management filed a court injunction and requested the judge to terminate these employees. This was effectively denied by the judge in a ruling at the end of June and Effy Jewellers management was once again ordered to pay these workers their full salaries owed.
These workers said since then, they have been left frustrated as they have not been paid, despite this court verdict. Efforts to get any information from management have proven difficult. Thompson said that they will not give up, but will continue to fight until they are given the justice deserved.
One worker said that they have dedicated their service to the establishment for more than a decade, but when they chose to stand up for their rights, were served with a letter of termination. This they feel was retaliation to their complaint made at the Department of Labor.
“Since my appointment in 2009 there have been 30 plus employees hired across all locations in St. Maarten. Only due to me standing for my right I have been issued a termination letter,” one worker exclaimed. “In all these years of dedicated service, I have grown from being a salesperson to the position of a manager.”
Workers maintained that, as per all court verdicts, they are still employed at Effy Jewellers. They said that they are still employees of Effy Jewellers, but are not being placed on a work schedule as they have repeatedly requested this. “I have asked Effy Jewellers for work schedules over and over again and have gotten no response,” they exclaimed.
“All of this goes to show how little regard Effy Jewellers has shown to my well-being and needs; how little regard Effy Jewellers has shown to the compliance with the law of the land; how little respect Effy Jewellers has for verdicts of the court.
“EFFY refuses to pay me and other employees our rightful salaries. This is nothing short of cruelty!” they exclaimed.