By Elesha George
Nine people who were employed by the former Melinis restaurant in Jolly Harbour have penned a letter to Immigration Minister EP Chet Greene asking that he prevent the owner from leaving the island.
In the letter to Greene, the group ask that the minister seize their employer’s travel documents to stop him from leaving the twin island state without paying them what they are owed.
It is not clear if the British owner Mark Tutton is currently on island. However, the employees believe that he is still in Antigua. They are fearful that he will leave and not return without giving them the more than EC$300,000 they claim they are owed in severance, salaries and vacation payment.
Greene told Observer he would attempt to reach Tutton and do everything possible to protect local workers, but advised the employees to engage a bargaining agent or lawyer too.
The letter was written by Martha Scarder, who had worked for the restaurant since its inception, amounting to more than 17 years. It was also signed by eight other employees who have laboured for upwards of 15 years at the establishment but have not been compensated since the nationwide lockdown at the end of March.
Scarder said she has been told she must make an appointment to deliver it to Greene.
In pleading with the minister for assistance, Scarder explained that the employees were sent home “without a letter or money – not even our one week’s pay”.
She told Greene that when the lockdown ended, only two employees were called back in to work and, some time after, the restaurant closed.
The employees have not had an opportunity to properly meet with Tutton since being informed of the temporary closure in March but explained that their union – the Antigua Free Trades Union – and the Labour Department met with the employer who has simply said that he has no money to pay staff.
The letter will also be forwarded to Prime Minister Gaston Browne for his intervention in the matter.