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Seasons staff cry for pay

Maria Bradshaw

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That is what some former workers of the stalled multimillion-dollar Four Seasons project are asking after learning that Government has approved US$60 million to get it restarted.
The angry employees complained that since being sent home in 2009, they have not received one cent in holiday pay, severance pay, or pay in lieu of notice.
“We saw in the paper that Government has finally given them money; but what about our money?” asked a woman who worked in administration.
She said that several former employees were back and forth at the Labour Department and the National Insurance Office, making enquiries about their monies.
“Since it come out in the paper we have been calling up each other to find out what is going on. We want to know what is the company’s obligation to its former staff,” the woman stated.
When contacted, Professor Avinash Persaud, the executive chairman of a body representing stakeholders in the Four Seasons project, told the WEEKEND NATION: “We will be injecting $30 million back into the hands of creditors over time, completely separate from the BDS$500 million future construction work.”
He admitted that no one was paid since the summer of 2009 but stressed that all creditors would be paid.
“One of the critical features of the deal we have brokered is that we treat to all our Barbadian creditors, even where they are unsecured.
“All previous plans had Barbadian creditors receiving next to nothing at all. One of my motivations for brokering this deal was that I felt that would be a further blow to the Barbados economy at this critical juncture.”
While pointing out that he could not speak about specific cases, Persaud confirmed Government’s agreement to help bail out the cash strapped company.
“I can say that now the Government has ratified the agreement, as soon as the formalities are complete, the new lenders ANSA Merchant Bank and I will be writing to all of the creditors to confirm payment arrangements and schedule.”
He added that this was a “complex, delicate process which I am not going to conduct via the press”.
But Persaud advised creditors who wanted more information to call and discuss their situation.
“We will treat them with the respect and fairness they deserve after their long wait. The process of starting repayments will take a few more weeks as ANSA Merchant Bank deals with the necessary legal aspects of disbursing the loan and transferring security.”
Asked if any of these former employees or former contractors would be rehired, Persaud stated:
“Going forward the company is going to hire a small team of construction management experts and quantity surveyors familiar with building Four Seasons hotels and building in the Caribbean, and Barbados and this group, not the company directly, will be making major sub-contracting and recruitment decisions.”
He said he expected many suppliers and employees to be on the site again, at some point, but the decision would be taken by construction professionals.
Cabinet recently approved the money for the hotel and an official announcement is expected from Government soon.
Construction of the US$600 million hotel and condominium project came to a sudden halt in February 2009 and over 800 workers were laid off.