“…I believe that a number of people are and will be taking legal action against the company for monies which they feel they have lost.” – Opposition Leader
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said that while his government “has nothing to do with” contracts between developers at the Buccament Bay Resort and their employers, people must be paid when they work.
His comments on Saturday came two days before Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace spoke of concerns in the international media about the global operations of developers at Buccament — Harlequin Hotels & Resorts.
Gonsalves’ comments came in response to a question during a meeting with Vincentians here on Saturday.
An employee at the five-star resort told I-Witness News in an email last week that the company has not paid him for three months.
He said he is owed EC$5,000 and added, “I would like to say how worried I am about the Buccament project.”
The email writer, who asked that his name be withheld, said he is a member of a team building new villas.
“We have not been paid for nearly three months now,” he wrote partly in dialect.
“What [are] we expected to do? No money for rent, food or to send my kids to school. My babymother [told] me I need [a] new job to look out for my family. What must I do? … I [am] telling you [there] will be trouble soon,” he further said.
But Gonsalves — who was in Taiwan for the second-term inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou — after being read parts of the email, said:
“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has nothing to do with any contractual arrangement between Buccama and any individual” — referring to the resort by the traditional name of its location.
“… I have inquired already. They tell me they have some people they employ directly, some people are employed through independent contractors,” he further stated.
“What I do know is that if somebody works they must get pay and whoever doesn’t get pay, there are laws in the country and they must go to the Labour Department and they will enforce the law,” Gonsalves said.
Meanwhile, Eustace, commenting on the development during his weekly radio appearance on Monday, said detail of the developers operation might become public soon.
“There are still, I believe, a lot more details to come out. I have had an opportunity to hear about some of the accounts with respect to Buccama and I will wait for those to be released,” he said.
“What I am saying is that the picture doesn’t look very well at all and one has to get as much information as possible because I believe that a number of people are and will be taking legal action against the company for monies which they feel they have lost,” Eustace said.
“And there are a number of subcontractor here who have done business for the company and have not been paid and this is a cause for concern,” he further sated.
“Buccama is a pretty large project. You are constantly hearing about workers not being paid or paid on time and you hear of investors who are dissatisfied and want there money back and some of them are going to court.
“… A number of questions are therefore being raised… I say to Vincentians now we have to be aware that all of these things are happening at the same time that our general financial situation and the investment climate itself is already being affected …” he further stated.
I-Witness News contacted Harlequin Property in England after a fire broke out at the resort two weeks ago.
The company’s U.K.-based lawyer Simon Terry said that the fire was a minor one in an unoccupied part of the resort.
Terry, however, did not respond on the record to questions about calls to radio programmes that some workers at the resort were not receiving their wages and salaries on time.