Posted on

SSL Workers demand payment of wages before Christmas

SSL Workers demand payment of wages before Christmas

Share

Workers at the St Vincent Shipyard Limited (SSL) were yesterday engaged in heated discussions with their boss, demanding that they be paid all their outstanding wages before the end of the day.

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the shipyard at Ottley Hall yesterday morning, Managing Director of the company Daniel Ravotti was involved in a loud exchange with a group of about 10 workers.{{more}}

He told SEARCHLIGHT that he is currently unable to pay full wages, but instead promised to pay the fortnightly workers one fortnight’s salary and one month’s salary to monthly workers.

“We have two and a half fort nights owing to the men…we came into an agreement with the union …about a three month period to get organized…,” he said.

However, according to Ravotti, now that it is Christmas, the workers are demanding two fortnights’ pay.

“I have $896,000 in receivables but you don’t see me going into the offices of the people who owe me money here on the island and smashing things,” Ravotti noted.

“The company is not in the position to pay two fort nights; the company has the money secured to pay one fort night. The workers don’t feel happy with that. They start doing what they were doing…I am trying right now my best to find…the money so they can at least work with one fort night and a half and I fight get the two fort nights well,” he explained.

SEARCHLIGHT spoke with some of the workers who accused Ravotti of lying about not having the money to pay, as the company had been paid by boat owners for whom they had done jobs.

Ravotti however said such accusations could not be further from the truth.

“The good thing is that what I am saying … can be proved on paper…that [is] not even a problem. So the people start talking stuff and everything goes as a rumour…but nobody sits and checks the facts.”

“What I was trying to explain to the workers [is that they can] easily go to the books of the company. The books cannot be altered because you have a bank [statement] to compare with…I mean you have invoices…and everything and every single worker knows all the vessels that had come in, so it is not that I can tell the owner pay, and I will put the money in my pocket, because it doesn’t work that way.

“Everybody can go easily to customs and check how many boats had come in with names and then you come and check my records and then you are going to see all the boats in there and then you are gonna check all the invoices and you can see that all the money has been transferred to the bank account…you cannot fabricate numbers in such a way,” Ravotti explained.

He added however that as the manager, he takes full responsibility for the current situation.

“If you don’t get all the money that you were expecting, you cannot tolerate this, this is completely out of hand. So I am the manager, I am the one to blame, I totally understand that it is my fault, but I am not going to allow this kind of situation.”

The workers explained that they had not, since early in the year, been receiving their full salary.

Former accountant at the SSL Brian Liverpool said that he was fired because he inquired about his salary.

“…The company seems to need cash input…I don’t think he has done enough to start the company up.”

He added that the company has been struggling financially for some time now.

“The ships that come into repair have been slow, I think he raised the price since he got here, but that might have deterred a lot of them from coming to get repairs done. But for a long time now, they know there is no money. I know that because I have been short paid since last year,” Liverpool stated.

Many employees expressed their displeasure to SEARCHLIGHT about the tough financial situation they have been placed in because of the failure of SSL to pay their salaries. One worker stated that she has not been able to pay her mortgage and the situation had become very frustrating.

Another worker openly wept about not being able to provide for his family especially at Christmas time.

In November, workers took industrial action after a decision was taken by Ravotti to cease work at the shipyard between November 21 and December 22 during which time workers would not be paid.

However, after intervention by Noel Jackson, president of the National Workers Movement (NWM), Ravotti decided not to close the shipyard. On November 23, Jackson told reporters that the workers agreed to try to protect the situation.

“We felt that under the circumstances we needed to try to protect that situation as much as possible and to intervene to ensure that payment is made whenever the employer has the necessary capital,” said Jackson.

He said then that paying the full wages has been difficult, because cash flow is a problem.

Jackson said through extensive discussions, the NWM is satisfied that SSL is having difficulties and this has been passed on to the workers.

Jackson advised workers not to engage in activities that would make the problem worse.

The NWM president said that even though wages have not been coming as the workers like, the fact remains that they are accumulating the wages that they will receive in some point in time.

Visit SEARCHLGHT’s Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/Searchlight1) to view yesterday’s standoff at SSL. (CM)

LAST NEWS