Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley (fourth from left), makes a point while (l-r) CEO of the BHTA, Rudy Grant; BHTA Chairman, Geoffrey Roach; hotelier Gordon Seale; BWU General Secretary, Toni Moore; trade unionist, Dwaine Paul and NIS Chairman, Leslie Haynes, listen attentively. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has given the assurance that the former employees of The Club Resort and Spa will soon receive their severance pay.

Addressing a joint press conference alongside Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) officials today, Ms. Mottley said the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was working assiduously to ensure the former workers received their due.

The Prime Minister disclosed that she and a number of her officials met yesterday with those from the BHTA and BWU to discuss several matters pertaining to the state of the tourism industry and the industrial instability at The Club.

“The workers at The Club will get their money. The General Secretary of the BWU, Ms. Moore, has been insistent that she would like it for Independence Day. In fairness to the NIS, they could not say yesterday whether that was yet possible. They have indicated to me that by Tuesday they will indicate exactly which day they can make the payments by because they have to do the calculations, the preparations, etc.

“…And, if not by Independence Day, I have asked them to do it as soon as possible thereafter,” she stated.

Ms. Mottley said at yesterday’s meeting, the NIS officials indicated that they had given no agreement to pay any sums of money to anyone as was suggested.

“What we will do…is act in accordance with the law and the law allows us to be able to take care of those workers. But equally, the law requires, …and sometimes it has not been done with as much diligence as I would have liked, …the NIS to go and to have that money which they have spent reimbursed to them because the Government’s contribution is only 25 per cent but it is the company that must pay 75 per cent.

“We have no difficulty in assuming the responsibility where there is a genuine bankruptcy. But where there are instances where money is available or assets are accessible, then you cannot expect the National Insurance Scheme to carry 100 per cent of the severance. We have been very clear about that and the instructions given to both the Chairman of the NIS as well as the Attorney General is to sit down and work and ensure that the Government of Barbados is not at any stage put on the backfoot in this matter,” she said.

The Prime Minister explained that the situation of the group of former employees was slightly different because they had been laid off in the summer of 2019 and it, therefore, constrained what kind of benefits they could access in 2020.

Chairman of the NIS, Leslie Haynes, emphasised that the organisation’s mandate is to ensure those former employees received their money. “I have heard the General Secretary, I have heard the Prime Minister, and … we have a board meeting on Monday….

“Since the beginning of the year we came together, we developed some processes which are expedited….  We are not waiting for one paper for all 65 employees. We plan to ensure that every day the board approves whatever comes to it. We have the commitment of the NIS employees…. The public can be assured, especially the former employees of The Club, that everything will be done to ensure their severance payments are made come Independence Day,” Mr. Haynes said.

BWU General Secretary Toni Moore added that she was pleased with the discussions that led to all parties meeting yesterday and the BHTA supporting her union’s call “very forcefully” that the workers should not be the ones disadvantaged.

She told the press conference: “The real commitment that has to be made by the Social Partnership at this time is that we are going to make suggestions to bolster the current system so that other hotels, other employers who are going through various challenges now… can get the protection that there is in law. But that those employers who can do better and should be doing better, do not use the National Insurance Scheme and do not use workers to their own benefit.”

She added that the BWU was eagerly looking forward to a series of meetings next week, to address a number of outstanding issues impacting other hotels.

Chairman of the BHTA, Geoffrey Roach, described Friday’s meeting as “very productive”, saying that it was a frank and open discussion which resolved a number of the issues.

Mr. Roach stressed that the employees’ welfare is a primary concern for hoteliers, pointing out that the industry “thrives” on its people. “The industry cannot survive without the employees and the contributions that they have made and will continue to make to the industry going forward,” he insisted.

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