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We want we money now!

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Sunday, September 26, 2010
Sacked Bel Air workers demand:

Tempers flared among sacked workers of Bel Air International Airport Hotel as a meeting between the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU) and the management of the hotel to discuss outstanding salaries and severance benefits failed to get off the ground.

Tempers flared among sacked workers of Bel Air International Airport Hotel as a meeting between the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU) and the management of the hotel to discuss outstanding salaries and severance benefits failed to get off the ground.

Standing in front of the hotel’s closed gates in Piarco last Thursday and shouting, “We want we money now,” the workers, flanked by ATSGWU first vice president John Jaglal and general secretary Anand Tiwari, have vowed to step up protest action until they are paid their $3,422, 277.87 in severance benefits and $64,000 in outstanding salaries. The workers received their last pay packets on June 15. The severance benefits the union has proposed for the workers range from $1,650 to $310,432.50.

On August 20, 40 permanent staff workers were thrown on the breadline after the 56 air-conditioned room hotel, which operated for almost six decades became insolvent. The workers did not receive letters informing them of the company’s insolvency and closure.
Speaking on behalf of the workers, attorney and ATSGWTU’s consultant and advisor Nirvan Maharaj explained that a meeting was carded for September 23 between the union and hotel’s management to settle all outstanding debts. When they showed up at Bel Air, however, they were faced with a locked gate. The hotel’s owner and chairman Robert Boos had rescheduled the meeting for September 29, which caused tempers to flare, as many felt they were being taken for a ride. “We are being taken for fools. This is unacceptable,” shouted a visibly upset Dookran Butchoon, who said that his children were struggling to survive because he had nothing to fall back on.

While Butchoon gave vent to his feelings, other workers shook the chained gate violently as a means of airing their frustration.
“There is no doubt that Bel Air has treated the workers, many of whom gave over 45 years of dedicated service unfairly and with contempt today,” said Maharaj. Maharaj said though the meeting did not materialise, the process of dialogue was far from over. Admitting that the workers’ backs were now against a wall since many owed banks and were unable to pay their bills, Maharaj said the union had since taken the workers’ plight to the Industrial Court and to the Ministry of Labour because the hotel is in breach of the terms and conditions of the Collective Agreement. “We are optimistic that if this matter goes before the Industrial Court the workers will get what is due to them based on the circumstances upon which they were sent home.”