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NWM, St Vincent Shipyard Limited thrash out issue

NWM, St  Vincent Shipyard Limited thrash out issue

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The National Workers Movement (NWM) was, up to press time on Monday evening, engaged in talks with managing director of St Vincent Shipyard Limited (SSL) Daniel Ravotti, in an effort to sort out a number of issues at the shipyard, including the full payment of workers’ wages.

Last Friday, November 18, Ravotti took the decision to close the Shipyard at Ottley Hall from Monday, November 21 to December 22, {{more}}“due to a technical breakdown of the company”.

A memo from the managing director to all employees said during the period of closure, employees would not be paid and that all outstanding monies owed would be paid by the end of November, 2016.

Ravotti’s decision came after the company’s 34 employees demanded their full wages after months of receiving half pay.

On Monday, SSL workers gathered at Lower Ottley Hall, outside the SSL compound, awaiting the end of the meeting between Ravotti and NWM president Noel Jackson.

The workers called in the media after they were short paid once again last week and a number of workers said that the lapses in payments are having a serious effect on their emotional, physical and financial well-being.

Welder and chief NWM delegate Mengistu Jacobs said that the 31 persons who work on the floor of the shipyard and the three employed in the office are fed up with not being paid their full wages. They are also up in arms in relation to a number of other issues.

He explained that last Friday, the workers met with Ravotti after their pay was late once again and in that meeting, Ravotti claimed that the company did not have money to pay the workers’ full wages.

Jacobs said that during the meeting, which lasted over an hour, they were given no real reason why the company could not meet its obligations.

“It’s not really sitting well with us. We trying to get him (Ravotti) to clear the arrears with workers and then we can start back to work, because everybody here has the drive to work and wants to work,” stressed Jacobs, who noted also that workers’ National Insurance Services (NIS) payments, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes and in some cases, loan payments are being deducted from their salaries and not being paid to the relevant entities.

“…There are workers with loans that not being paid and it have workers who can’t get to do no borrowing because of their [credit rating],” stressed Jacobs, who noted also that there are numerous other problems, including the lack of basic items, such as gloves, tissue and hand sanitizer.

“When we ask, he (Ravotti) saying he don’t have no money. If he don’t have money, why run the business?” said Jacobs, who noted that currently there are two boats at the shipyard waiting to be repaired.

He said that while persons are not being paid their correct wages, whether fortnightly or monthly, they continue to work, hoping to be paid.

Cornelius Lewis, the chief welder and super­visor in the metals department, said that in February, he fell from a tree at home and turned in three different sick leave certificates. He said that the NIS paid 65 per cent of his salary and the SSL was expected to pay the balance, but has only paid half of what he is supposed to get.

“Since February I can’t get the other half. The half salary keep rolling over…I have bills, loans, I have my mother helping, plus children. I have two children in Tortola depending on me and if I out of work, they can’t get food, so we need this thing to stop and stop now,” said Lewis.

He said in his opinion, the shipyard is making a lot of money, but does not want to pay workers.

“There was a boat from St Kitts and before that another boat called Sandman; the St Kitts boat was charged three hundred and fifty something thousand dollars to fix and the Sandman was even more. So, I don’t know where the money going,” said Lewis, who, when asked how he knew the cost to fix the boats commented, “information leaking out, boats coming and going, coming and going and is like we building up the company while we going down.”

Phil Frederick has worked at the shipyard for the past 23 years as an operator. He thinks that, under SSL management, things have gotten out of hand.

“Since July there have been short payments. We are all facing the same thing,” said Frederick, who told SEARCHLIGHT that he took a loan with a local company and was told by Ravotti that the loan amount would be taken out of his salary and paid to that company.

“He agreed to pay it out my salary and the payment was supposed to end on September 2, but they only pay up to June,” said Frederick, displaying documents that showed the money was deducted from his salary for his loan amount, but never paid over to the collector.

“…“I think he is very ridiculous with the workers; sometimes he even burst dirty expression on us. If he want respect, he have to give respect; he don’t listen.”

Frederick claimed that they do not have the required material to do jobs and neither do they have proper equipment, gear and workers’ insurance.

Storekeeper Neva Scott said that she is also fed up of not getting her full salary.

“We ask the boss to pay us on time. Sometimes on a Friday, pay week, he drive out and don’t return and then on Monday when he come back, he not even saying nothing, moving like he don’t owe us.

“We cannot take it anymore. We had a meeting, then he decide he don’t have the outstanding money and he put up the sign that the shipyard is close down”, said Scott.

Senior electrician and supervisor Oswald Glasgow said that in his opinion this situation has developed because of Ravotti’s arrogance.

“He don’t like nobody to ask him nothing; he do what he feel like and he treating people like dogs. Even his own people he bring form Venezuela. If he ain’t pay you, you should ask no question,” said Glasgow.

The electrician added, “… People have their family and living pay cheque to pay cheque, so now we decide we can’t handle it anymore.”

On Monday, Ravotti promised to speak with SEARCHLIGHT after the meeting with the NWM, but attempts by SEARCHLIGHT to reach him were futile.

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