After seven and a half years, around 65 former employees of the defunct Bottlers Ltd(Ju-C) are finally receiving their severance payments, in amounts which are several times greater than what was originally offered to them.
However, the lengthy process since the company went under in May 2011 has meant that a number of the employees never lived to see the day that their due severance was paid.
Joseph ‘Burns’ Bonadie, General Secretary for the Commercial and Technical Allied Workers’ Union(CTAWU) which represented the workers, spoke to SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.
He noted that after the company closed down, the unionized workers had questioned the effectiveness of the CTAWU “The Union has to follow the rule of law,” he stated, adding “the point is that we did not give up, and the workers today who were offered a $1000 getting $10,000…which is better than had we just rolled over and play dead.”
Bonadie explained that in the first application to the court, under an “old archaic” law, the liquidators were seeking to pay the employees for a maximum of 42 days regardless of how long the employee had worked there.
“So people who had worked four years,” he said as an example, “they would pay them $1000.”
“Well this can’t be, you can’t come with this old law talking about putting a limit on how many days you could pay,” Bonadie commented.
The CTAWU general secretary said that the receivers/liquidators wanted the bank to get most of the money because the company was indebted, of course, to the bank to the tune of millions of dollars. After this original acceptance of their application to the court, the matter was appealed and heard at the High Court of St Vincent and the Grenadines on November 1, 2018.
A decision came out on February 28 this year which overturned the original 42 days proposal, Bonadie noted.
He explained that this judgment imposed an alternative method of calculation of the severance payment to the former employees.
“So people that they had offered this little pittance to, they had to now turn around and pay them, under the Protection of Employment Act, which is the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” the General Secretary stated.
He referenced one employee who would have been offered $3000 originally, but following the February decision, and under the Protection of Employment Act, she is now entitled to $25,300.00 plus. “She died now, she never enjoyed that severance payment money,” he remarked.
Additionally, Bonadie posits that the employees could have received even more, had the collective agreement between the CTAWU and the company been enforced.
However, they decided not to prolong the matter any further, “I say I leave it at that, the workers say they want their money.”
Therefore, they did not appeal the February 28 judgment. A period of time following the judgment had been allowed for them to do so, should they wish.
“It (the severance) was a substantial improvement on what the receivers offered(initially),” Bonadie explained.
After the period for appeal was over, in October, the money can now be distributed among the employees.
The workers have been getting their cheques, the General Secretary assured, and the only cases that remain are those where the persons have died and beneficiaries still have to provide the proper documentation.
LINK ORIGINAL: Searchlight