By Kenton X. Chance
Workers at the Buccament Bay Resort say they will, on Monday, take their grievances to the Labour Department and the Office of the Prime Minister as they continue to strike in an effort to force the management of the privately-owned company to pay outstanding wages.
On Saturday, the workers moved into a second consecutive day of protest action, their latest in several work disruptions this year to force the owners of the tourism facility to pay their wages.
“No pay?” one man was shouting while his co-workers responded “No work!” when iWitness News arrived around midmorning Saturday.
The workers say they have not been paid for the past two months and have had enough and were prepared to continue with the industrial action until something is done.
“Are we on a plantation?” the man shouted outside the gates of the resort — his comments being a reference to plantation slavery.
“No!” his co-workers responded.
“We are here working for three months and can’t get no money. It is not fair to work and can’t get pay, is it?” he told iWitness News, saying that the protest is intended to force the resort to pay the outstanding wages.
He, however, told iWitness News that workers had not seen the management of the resort since the protest began on Friday.
“We don’t know what is going on so we are trying to make something … happen,” the landscape worker told iWitness News.
A man who has been working as a security guard at the resort for the past three months spoke of the difficulties of his job.
“It’s not easy; working in the night, especially when rain comes it is not easy, working hard.”
But even in the face of these challenges, he gets promises instead of the hard currency needed to sustain himself and his family.
“Everyday you come, new promises, new promises and no money. It’s hard. It’s over two months, almost three months we ain’t get any money and they keep telling us lies and lies and lies. We can’t go to the bank; we can’t go anywhere and get money because of what? You’re working at Buccament.
“It’s ridiculous and we can’t stand it anymore and we don’t need piece of our money. We need all of our money because it is ridiculous. It’s too much now.”
The man said that the management of the resort has been telling the workers that the resort will be getting $60 million and things will be OK.
“And we keep hearing that over and over again and still nothing. Same old story,” he said.
Workers had placed a trolley, a barrel and a garbage bin at the entrance to the resort and said they were not allowing any of their colleagues to go to work.
“We are blocking the resort. If you want to go to the beach, fine, because it is a public beach, but we are not allowing anybody to go on to the resort.”
He, however, said if persons want to go to work, it is up to them.
Camille Patterson, a steward at the resort, was sitting on the trolley that was blocking the entrance to the resort.
She was holding a placard saying, “Mr Ames’ health has nothing to do with our salaries! We want our money!!!”
The message on the placard was a reference to Dave Ames, manager of Harlequin Property St. Vincent, owners of the resort.
Ames is facing charges of theft and tax evasion in relation to his alleged failure to pay into the state coffers, taxes and other deductions he made from workers’ wages.
As prosecutor in Kingstown moved in on him in June, the Britain-born businessman who is a naturalised Vincentian, fled St. Vincent via speedboat and went to London.
His lawyer has since written to prosecutors saying that he cannot travel back to St. Vincent because of ill health and his trial has been postponed until Feb. 17, 2017 — the third such adjournment.
Patterson told iWitness News that she has been working at the resort for five years. She said that it has been over two years since workers are not being paid regularly.
“I work very hard and I need my money. I have rent to pay and I have my children to go to school. I don’t have [a] husband. It’s me alone. I work, so I need my money. I need my money from today go back because my landlord [is] looking for their rent.”
Patterson was opposed to the idea of the workers joining a trade union.
“Well, union is not doing nothing because, right now what we see going on all in Ottley Hall, union isn’t doing nothing to nobody, so we trying to do it on we own and see how our voice will be heard.”
Her reference to Ottley Hall was about the unionised workers there who came public about the non-payment of wages at the state-owned facility that has been leased to foreign and local “investors” at what commentators say is a give-away price of US$5,400 a month.
Those investors are now complaining that they do not have the capital needed to run the facility.
Patterson told iWitness News that the protest is just the beginning of the workers’ plans to force the resort to pay them.
“So, after this, we’re going Monday Labour Department and then we are going over to [the Financial] Complex to see how our voice could be heard on this because we’re real serious. If we don’t get we pay, we ain’t working.”
About 70 workers were at the entrance of the resort when iWitness News visited. We were reliably informed that some persons who turned up to work that morning went home after they met their colleagues striking.
At the time of publishing this article, Buccament Bay Resort media contact had not responded to an email request for comment about the developments at the resort.