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By Orville Williams

The majority of staff laid off from the Hodges Bay resort earlier this year when the coronavirus crisis took hold have received their severance pay. A few others remain outstanding due to issues with their representation.

Hodges Bay is just one of several resorts across the country that has had to deal with the issue of severance for employees, following the temporary closure of the travel and hospitality industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Resort owner, Jeff Wellemeyer, confirmed to Observer yesterday, that – working alongside the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) – the amounts and timelines for severance payments have been agreed and payments have already been disbursed.

“We have been working with the union and everyone has gotten one payment. Almost everybody else is getting their second payment at the end of the month and they will all be paid off with all their severance,” Wellemeyer said.

Those pronouncements have been corroborated by Deputy General Secretary of the ABWU, Chester Hughes, who said at least 95 percent of the staff being represented by the union have received their first payment.

Hughes also explained that, following discussions with the resort, it was concluded that the money be paid in two installments. With the first installment now paid, the second is due at the end of August for one group of employees, and at the end of September for the other group.

However, despite severance having been agreed for most of the staff, there are some employees who are not currently scheduled to receive any payments.

These employees are being represented by industrial relations consultant, Anderson Carty, who claims, based on word from his clients, that resort personnel are attempting to “exert undue influence and pressure on them to have [him] withdraw representation in the matter on their respective behalf.”

Carty is calling this act “highly improper and unlawful”.

Responding to his refusal to operate with Carty’s representation, Wellemeyer told Observer, “I will not succumb to bullying and sharp industrial practices, the result of which are never in the best interest of all of us who have vested interests in this lovely country of Antigua.”

He also voiced his dedication to fairness, saying, “I am committed to maintaining good corporate relations with all relevant parties and institutions, and will preserve inviolate proper industrial relations”.

The resort boss added that the payments to the staff are not an issue, with the only problem being their representation.

“All the [employees] working with [Chester Hughes] have gotten [part of] their severance and the only ones that have not are the ones that are working with Anderson Carty, and there’s only a few,” Wellemeyer said.

Speaking briefly on the matter, Hughes explained that some of the employees in question had reached out to the union seeking representation in the severance matter. He said, when it was confirmed that they already had official representation, they were informed that if they wished to be represented by the union, they would have to terminate any existing arrangements. This, Hughes added, is standard procedure.

Meanwhile, since the reopening of the country’s borders and the resumption of tourism, several resorts have been actively recruiting personnel to refill their ranks. So, along with the guarantee of severance payments, many employees in the sector are now hoping to regain their employment through the rehiring process.

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