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Vincentians back from Gulf of Mexico want their money

Vincentians back from Gulf of Mexico want their money

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Ten Vincentians, who say they were recruited to work with a catering company on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, are calling on the local company which recruited them, to pay them their money.{{more}}

The group of four women and six men told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, September 15, that they had been working with the catering company for periods ranging from one to two years. Six months ago, they came back to St. Vincent, as their visas had expired.

According to the group, they were told that they would receive their pay cheques through the local agency, identified as Ocean Life Ltd., when they returned to St. Vincent. The group claims that to date, no one has been paid.

They told SEARCHLIGHT whenever they called the company, they would be given various answers including: “I have bills to pay”; “Check back next week” or, “I will give you money when I want to give you money”.

Veronique Job said that a week after she returned to St.Vincent, she visited Ocean Life’s office in an attempt to get her money.

“Couple weeks passed and I see like the money was not going in (her bank account), so I keep checking.”

She said the money was never credited to her account, so she called the manager of the company Raphael Quashie who told her to fax ‘the stuff’ to him and she did, but every time she checked back, he told her that she would get the money the following week.

Annoyed, Job called the office in Louisiana about the situation. She said that she was told she and the others should go to a lawyer. Veronique said that a group of them went to a local lawyer who promised to get back to them, but to date, the lawyer has not done so.

The frustrated group said they are owed monthly salaries, bonuses, medical refunds, exemptions and refunds for plane tickets, all of which was laid out and agreed to at the time of recruitment.

To add to their frustration, the ten Vincentians said when they tried to renew their visas at the US Embassy, they were all turned down.

The group also claims that the living arrangements made for them in Louisiana were almost unbearable. They say they sometimes woke up to find rats on their beds, and had no access to their passports from the time they entered the country until they were ready to leave.

They said that sometimes they had nothing to eat for a week because they weren’t getting paid, and they would not have made it, had they not been living as a family. They expressed thanks to one ‘Miss Barney’, a complete stranger, who took them in.

According to Michelle Ledger, one of the aggrieved ten, were it not for Miss Barney, “Dogs would’ve been better off than [them].”

When SEARCHLIGHT tried reaching Quashie by phone, all our attempts were unsuccessful.

In the September 11, 2009 edition of SEARCHLIGHT, another ex-employee of the catering company, Augustus Belgrave, accused the company of exploitation, poor treatment of employees and irregularity of payment. On that occasion, we did reach Quashie, who denied all accusations.

Now one year later, ten others say they are in the same situation. The group however is adamant that they will not give up, as they worked really hard for their money. (DC)

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