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Vendors blocked from entering Kingstown fish market

Vendors blocked from entering Kingstown fish market

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The non-compliance of some vendors led to a temporary and partial suspension of operations of the National Fisheries Marketing Limited yesterday.{{more}}

However, management of the market said that the lockout of vendors was instigated by other vendors, and not by the staff of the market.

On Monday morning, something seemed fishy; persons visiting the market to get their daily supply of seafood, were greeted by only three of the more than 50 persons licensed to sell at the market located at Little Tokyo, Kingstown.

The others were temporarily prevented from doing business.

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the scene, irate vendors were protesting what they called “injustice”; that they had been greeted with the news that some of them would not be allowed to do business on that day, because of unpaid fees.

The vendors were disputing this charge, saying that they had paid up their dues according to the rules of the market.

“I already done pay my license for six months from January to June this year; and the manager say that I cannot be operating from this morning because I have to pay for the whole year,” claimed Shurmaine Lavia of Clare Valley.

“I know my certificate tell me I have to go to the doctor twice a year and not once,” the vendor said, holding in hand her receipt which proved that she had paid for six months.

The vendor went on to say that because of the instructions from the manager, one vendor, who had paid six months and was prohibited from vending, used his own lock to keep vendors from accessing the vending area of the market.

“He said that if four persons pay for a whole year and 12 pay for six months, if the 12 can’t operate, then the four can’t operate neither; so, all of us would have to stay behind until somebody come to our assistance.”

The vendors, who managed to get their fish into the vending area, had brought their ice and fish through a side entrance of the market.

The vendors who assembled outside the market indicated that they had no problem in paying the fees ($28.75 for six months, $57.50 for one year); but it was the manner in which they were prevented from doing business.

“The money is not the problem; but when you look at the principle that you done collect people six months money, and you telling them that they cannot operate for the next two months… that is a violation,” one vender noted.

The vendors claim that they were only informed that they were required to pay the balance of the annual fee, the previous Saturday, April 14.

When SEARCHLIGHT spoke to NFML manager Dunston Johnson later that day, it was an entirely different kettle of fish that he presented. He claimed that the letter, which the vendors received last Saturday, was actually a final notice that they were to settle their outstanding fees.

He indicated that there had been an agreement and previous warnings, that the vendors who paid half-year fees were expected to make another payment by the past weekend, which would have brought them up to a full year’s standing, and thus eliminate the half-yearly payments.

“I usually meet the vendors in quarterly meetings. At the one in July 2011, I appraised them as to what was the market’s intentions…. There was another vendors’ meeting in November last year… there were no dissenting voices. So, in December we sent out another note to them to let them know that the deadline will be January 15, 2012”.

Johnson said that because the medical examination of the vendors, which was required before they paid their fees, took place later than scheduled, the vendors were initially given until March 15, and then an April 13, 2012 deadline to make a one-year payment; but some vendors still paid half-year.

“This morning I got a call to say that the vendors are not paying the money; but moreso, one vendor placed a chain with two locks on an area we call the bargaining area, where most of the storage takes place….

“In addition to that, another vendor… placed a similar chain and lock on the door that is leading from the bargaining area into the vending area; so therefore there could be no passage of fish and vendors from the bargaining area to the vending area.

“….There is absolutely no truth in management closing down the market; the locking out was done by two vendors….”

Johnson said that he summoned the police to the scene, and following some talks, the chains and locks were removed from the doors, allowing vendors to take their fish and ice to the stalls, where business resumed as normal.

The manager indicated that a meeting was held with the police, management of the market, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Nathaniel Williams, and Chief Fisheries Officer Raymond Ryan, concerning the morning’s events.

He pointed out that a subsequent meeting is expected to take place at a later date with Minister Saboto Caesar; but in the interim, the vendors will be allowed to conduct business.

Johnson conceded that the receipts issued to the vendors should have indicated that the monies received were only part payment for the yearly fee, and that the rest of the payment was due before June; but at the same time, some vendors were having difficulty complying with the rules of the market.

By afternoon, things were back to normal at the market, with management and vendors both looking to have the matter amicably resolved in the not too distant future.

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