Simpson Bay Resort, WIFOL continue legal trench warfare

PHILIPSBURG--Simpson Bay Resort and Marina (SBRM, former Pelican Resort) and Workers Institute for Organised Labour (WIFOL) met in court once again on Tuesday afternoon, this time during the resort's appeal against Friday's ruling by the Court of First Instance that barred the resort from implementing two verdicts of the Court of Appeals.

The appeal, filed on Friday, once again puts in limbo the more than 100 workers who had been sent home several weeks ago, as they have to await the ruling in this latest appeal.

Tuesday's appeal was heard by video-conference, with the panel of Appeals Court judges, presided over by Judge H.J. van Kooten, holding court in Curaçao, and resort lawyer Jairo Bloem and WIFOL attorneys Maarten Le Poole and Wim van Sambeek pleading in the St. Maarten Courthouse's ground floor Flamboyant Room.

The resort's attorney requested that the Appeals Court overturn Friday's judgement and have this verdict suspended for the duration of the appeal.

In Friday's ruling, the judge in the Court of First Instance had stated that the Appeals 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. The judge said that therefore the rights of WIFOL and its members needed to prevail over the resort's rights.

The judge ordered the resort to adhere to the collective labour agreements (CLAs) closed with the resort's line personnel, supervisors, middle management and administrative personnel, or face a penalty of US $25,000 per day in case of noncompliance.

With a large contingent of workers in the audience, attorney Bloem claimed on Tuesday that the resort would be put in dire financial straits if Friday's ruling and the penalty attached to it remained in place until the High Court's hearing of the so-called cassation case, which in a worst-case-scenario might take up to two years.

According to Bloem, the cash-strapped resort would not have the resources to pay the workers' salaries. He claimed the resort already had paid more than $1.3 million to WIFOL members, almost $700,000 of which had been paid out to 43 employees who were laid off as per January 26.

Bloem said the court's "short-sighted" vision that the resort should adhere to the stipulations in the CLAs closed with WIFOL members to prevent social unrest could have grave consequences, such as closure of the resort.

He said WIFOL had put up a "smoke screen" consisting of "intimidation" and false statements about the resort owners' creditworthiness with which it had managed up to now to convince the Court of First Instance of the justification of its cause.

"Nobody is wondering how the resort is to carry this enormous burden and what would be the consequences for the approximately 12,500 timeshare owners and members, and on a larger scale this island, because the resort's activities yield a turnover of $1 million dollars per month," Bloem said.

WIFOL's lawyers contested the figures presented by the resort, stating they were not verified or authorised by an independent certified accountant.

Attorney Le Poole said this "exceptional and remarkable" case was being handled over the heads of people "who are in a state of total confusion about their current status and future," after they were sent home on November 4, having been without work and income since then.

Chief Judge van Kooten, who handled the court hearing with strict time management, said the case would be handled with the highest possible urgency and a ruling could expected by the end of this week or early next week.

30 November 2011

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