KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says he doesn’t need any lecture from Buccament Bay Resort investor Dave Ames on the importance of tourism to the economy but would appreciate if his company, Harlequin Resorts, pays its workers.
“I want to make it plain and I make no apologies to anybody when it comes to matters of that sort (non-payment of wages). And most of all, I don’t want any lecture from Mr. Ames on what the impact of tourism is and can be for this country. I know it very well, better than him,” Eustace said Monday during his weekly radio programmes.
His comments came in response to Ames’s statement in a recent interview with Searchlight newspaper in which Ames said he was surprised that Eustace did not contact him about his “concerns”.
Eustace and other members of the New Democratic Party and callers to radio discussion programmes here have complained about the late or non-payment of wages to some workers at the resort.
“This is what I am upset about. My point is, I actually rang my lawyer Sam Commissiong and I said to him ‘Why doesn’t this man ring me? Why doesn’t he come here and meet the workers here?
He is more than welcome to come here; I would love to show him around,” Searchlight quotes Ames as saying.
According to the newspaper, Ames said in a press statement that Eustace and Central Kingstown representative St Clair Leacock were raising “alarmist concerns”, based on information received from persons Ames described as illegal “expats.”
“Mr. Eustace, an economist is quoted as saying ‘the situation has implications for the nation’s reputation and foreign investment here.’ Well he is quite correct; as a direct result of such inaccuracies as are being spread at the moment by himself and his peers, there may well be future implications for foreign investment,” said Ames, who also told the newspaper he had acquired Vincentian citizenship.
But Eustace said that the NDP in its election manifesto made it plain that tourism is a major priority because of its benefits to the local economy.
“So I don’t need to be told about that. … I am fully aware of what that could be,” Eustace said.
“Pay the people their money. That is what I am asking for. And I am saying to the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you have a Labour Department, intervene.
“There are conciliatory processes and other processes that you can go through to make sure that people are properly treated. … That is what they are for — to assist people who want to know what their rights are and who have been wronged by their employers.”
Eustace reemphasised the NDP’s view that this country needs foreign investment and must create a welcoming climate.
“But when foreign investors come, they must live up to their obligations and pay the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That is what I am talking about. … So all those who want to take it and turn it into some political football, they can go ahead.”
He, however, said that while foreign investors must be encouraged, all employers — foreign or local – “have an obligation to make your payments to the people who work for you and that is very, very important and very fundamental.
“People have to live. They have their mortgages to pay, many of them are trying to build a home, many of them have their children in school and they have to be paid.
“And there is no excuse to tell me the local contractor should be paying when in some case the local contractor himself has not been paid by the inventors,” Eustace said.
Government senator, Julian Francis, recently said that the Buccament Bay project has to be protected.
He suggested that some construction workers are not being paid on time because of the manner in which contractors manage the system that allow them to access funds based on the status of the work for which they have been contracted.