A Vincentian contractor, on Friday, declined to comment even as his employees complained in his presence to iWitness News that they had not been paid for work done on the EC$600 million new port being built in Kingstown.
Isaac Browne declined to comment even as two detectives encouraged him to comment to the media about the workers’ claims.
The police officers were dispatched to the Kingstown offices of Aecon Group Inc., of Canada, the firm contracted to build the new port in the city.
Browne chose to walk away and not say anything even as two of his employees, Shamar Richardson and Alonzo Samuel, complained about being owed thousands of dollars for work done for the sub-contractor.
Richardson, a Coulls Hill resident, told iWitness News that Browne recruited him even as he was working on another project in Barrouallie.
He said Browne offered him EC$150 a day and promised to increase it to EC$180 per day if Richardson performed to his satisfaction.
“I worked with this man for a month and some. He paid me for 23 days,” Richardson told iWitness News, partly in the Vincentian vernacular.
“I worked overtime for this man, this man never paid me overtime, which I never made a problem. Just give me my money,” he said.
He said Browne paid him for 23 days and owed him for more than 20 days additionally.
“He said he would pay me the remainder of the money last week Friday (Sept. 1). Last week Friday, I went and asked this man for my money. He asked me if I sent in a claim (an invoice),” Richardson said.
He said he went to one of the “white man” — a reference to an Aecon employee — who said they would have been paid last Friday, Sept. 8, at the latest.
“The man telling me like this, if I don’t get my money what would I do,” Richardson said.
He said it appears that another of the Aecon employees did not know what was going on.
Richardson told iWitness News that when that other employee understood what was taking place, the employee told him that he would pay him some of the money and tell him when to return to collect the balance.
“The white man now came out and spoke to me and said he would give me a paper (money) and come back for my remaining 3,500 on Monday.”
Richardson said he was owed a total of EC$4,500 for 30 days’ work.
He said Browne was giving him “a load of bad boy talks; ranking talks.
“And, to be honest, I don’t want to go down that road with him. Violence is not really my thing, but if he pushes for that, I will have to go down that road with him,” Richardson said.
He said his brother has a young child and he helps his brother and father.
“But, hear, even if it isn’t all that hard for me, there are these guys who have children,” he said, referring to his co-workers.
Meanwhile, Samuel, who is from Belmont, said he has multiple construction skills and is also doing steel work on the new port, working for Browne.
Samuel said he and Browne had worked together on other construction projects so Browne knew about his skills.
He said Browne called him offering a starting wage of EC$120 per day, promising to increase it to EC$150, with the prospect of even higher wages.
“He told me I would have to work a month before getting paid and then I would be paid every two weeks,” Samuel told iWitness News.
“The month ended; he did not pay us the money. We worked five weeks before we got a small portion of money, which was for only two weeks then we worked until week seven after he paid us the first portion of money…” the construction worker explained.
“Last Friday, which was to be the fortnight, he was watching everybody in their faces and not telling them anything. That was disrespectful,” Samuel said.
He told iWitness News that Browne now owes him EC$4,500.
“All he is saying, wait, wait, wait until the money comes through.”
Richardson said they went to Aecon’s office because an Aecon employee had told them that they would have been paid by that day (Friday) at the latest.
“He (Browne) pays us onsite but the white man told us today would be the latest we would get our money.”
At this point, Samuel noted that Browne was standing right there in the corridor.
“That’s the boss man right there,” Richardson said.
However, when iWitness News asked Browne whether he had anything to say in response to his employee’s comments, he walked away and remained silent.
Richardson described Browne as disrespectful.
Samuel said that based on what Browne has said, he had calculated that the sub-contractor had collected EC$130,000 and had paid out EC$32,000.
“So that ends up with $98,000 left back. So why can’t he pay us and he said that from that money he could have continued to pay us for up to three fortnights out of that money.”
Richardson said that one of the workers had asked Browne peacefully about payment and Browne cussed out the worker.
He said that Browne did not call a meeting to explain to the workers what was happening.
“When we had a meeting with the white man last Monday, he said we were disrespectful and we should have called him to have a meeting. How does that sound to you? We should call you to have a meeting?”
Samuel supported Richardson’s view, noting that Browne was supposed to pay them the previous Friday and should have called a meeting with his team to explain what was happening.
“He just looked everybody in their faces and went about his business.”
Browne declined to comment a second time when given an opportunity to do so.