Simpson Bay Resort ordered to adhere to labour agreement

PHILIPSBURG--"Fantastic" and "courageous" said attorney at law Maarten Le Poole after it became known the judge of the Court of First Instance had suspended implementation of an Appeals Court ruling that could have had dramatic consequences for almost 200 workers of Simpson Bay Resort (former Pelican Resort Club).

Much to the delight of Workers Institute for Organised Labour (WIFOL) members and their legal representatives, Judge René van Veen prevented management of Simpson Bay Resort Management Company BV (SBRMC) and Royal Resort (RR) Management Ltd. from implementing two verdicts of the Court of Appeals of November 4 and November 7 that they considered to have contained legal errors.

In the contested ruling, the three judges of the Court of Appeals had declared null and void the February 8 ruling in which the Court of First Instance had ordered Simpson Bay Resort to continue paying salaries to 182 workers the resort had been attempting to dismiss.
The company also was ordered to adhere to regulations stipulated in the collective labour agreements (CLAs) closed with WIFOL for line personnel and supervisors of Pelican Resort Club and the resort's middle management and administrative personnel.

The Appeals Court overturned this ruling, which meant SBRMC no longer would be obligated to pay salaries to the 182 employees.

Even though the Appeals Court judges admitted they had been incorrect in stating that WIFOL's lawyers had not submitted legal documents within the required timeframe, this did not lead to a different judgement, because in the appeal WIFOL would have referred to its position in the Court of First Instance.

WIFOL's lawyers had stated that this was incorrect, because they had been prevented from filing new documents due to the issue with the correct timeframe.

Based on what was considered the "flawed" Appeals Court ruling, workers would have been forced into considerably less favourable labour conditions with their new employer.
Judge van Veen stated in Friday's ruling that the Appeal Court ruling contained a mistake, based on which the resort had sent WIFOL members home and had tried to induce them to accept less favourable labour conditions. Therefore, the judge said, the rights of WIFOL and its members needed to prevail over the resort's rights.

SBRMC and RR had stated that the Appeals Court ruling did not contain any mistakes and it had been lawfully and unquestionably established that SBRMC was no longer deemed to be unified with the former Pelican Resort Club Management Company NV (PRCMC) and as such was not responsible for the workers' labour arrangements and conditions as agreed with PRCMC.

The auction of Pelican Resort Club, the following conflict about the labour conditions of the almost 200 employees and the temporary closure of the resort caused much commotion among workers and in society at large. The Appeals Court rulings of November 4 and 7 had not taken this commotion away, but had only aggravated it, the judge stated in his ruling.
According to the judge, WIFOL had "weighty interests" in maintaining the situation that had been in existence prior to November 4. Counterbalancing WIFOL's interests in connection with the CLAs was SBRMC's and RR's interest to make the resort financially healthy, but this interest weighed less heavily than WIFOL's interests, the judge stated.

The judge said SBRMC and RR had various possibilities to make the resort financially healthy again, such as the already-filed requests to lay off workers. The fact that no decisions had been made on these requests could not be passed on to the workers, the judge said.
The resort was ordered to adhere to the various CLAs. In case of noncompliance it would have to pay US $25,000 per day.

However, the ruling does not mean the judicial dispute between parties is over. The judge indicated that the resort had to adhere to the CLAs until the High Court in The Hague had ruled in WIFOL's cassation case. This procedure may take a year or longer, especially if the High Court decides to refer the case back to the Appeals Court for retrial. Friday's ruling also will remain in place if this scenario becomes a reality, Judge van Veen stated.

25 November 2011

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