Front Page
July 20, 2012
Former Bottlers workers want severance pay

Twelve disgruntled former employees of Bottlers Ltd, former producers of Ju-C, are demanding that they receive their severance pay and that their former employers and trade union “stop with the empty promises”.{{more}}

Only two of the 12 individuals who visited SEARCHLIGHT’s office say they have since gained employment elsewhere. The others claim that their efforts to find jobs have been futile.

Speaking on behalf of his former co-workers, Alfred Grant, who worked with the company as a warehouse clerk for four and a half years, explained that in April 2011, over 70 workers were sent home “until further notice”.

“Over a year and some now, the workers have been sent home and were given some letters saying until further notice, until things change in the company.

“Since then we keep going to the union office week after week, trying to get answers as to what’s going on with the company. Up to today we have not been given a definite answer.

“All we are getting are empty promises because one time they saying things will be sorted out and when we check back another time is another negative response.

“We even go to the Labour Department to find out like who we can turn to, to get some answer of assistance without severance pay and up to now, nothing.”

Annemarie Williams, who worked with the company for 35 years, said it has been a very difficult period for her since being laid off.

“It’s real hard for me. Before I got laid off, I spoke to Mr [Burns] Bonadie [of the Commercial Technical and Allied Workers’ Union], because he came to Bottlers to have a meeting and I told him that I’ve had enough of Bottlers and I’m getting old now and they can give the job to someone else younger and give me my severance pay and let me go home.

“And he say ‘if they don’t have it, what you want them to do?’”

Working with Bottlers Ltd for 16 years, Oslyn Jacobs says she feels as if she has wasted half her life.

“Nobody is hiring now and everybody wants degree… So you ain’t see I waste half my life at Ju-C.”

Wayne Grant, one of the two individuals who has since gained employment says all he wants is the severance payment that is owed to him and his former co-workers.

“We keep getting excuses. We went to the Labour Department and the guy who deals with industrial disputes told me that it’s a waste of time we come, because he can’t give we no information so I ain’t bother with him.

“When I went back there couple weeks after and I met him, their excuse to us is that not everything Labour Department will be able to help us with. They saying they don’t know who the board of directors are or who is really in charge of the company. So, I ask him if a company is registered within the country, whosoever registered the company should be able to stand for the company because it is registered.

“I just feel they trying to hoodwink us and all we just want is we severance money. If they are functioning or not, just pay us our money.”

Others from the visiting group complained that they are behind with mortgage payments, loans and are finding it difficult to provide for their families as they used to.

They say they have considered seeking legal action, but cannot take this step because of the lack of financial resources.

When contacted on Monday, acting Labour Commissioner Fitz Jones would only say on the record that the Labour Department is “continuing to work on the matter”.

We were unable to reach the CTAWU’s Burns Bonadie on Wednesday evening, but Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bottlers St Vincent Ltd Holly Hughes, said that “the Directors have been working in the interest of all stakeholders, with them (the workers) at the forefront.”

SEARCHLIGHT understands that Bottlers St Vincent Ltd has, for several months now, been in discussions with the East Caribbean Group of Companies (ECGC), in relation to a possible take-over of Bottlers by ECGC.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves disclosed two months ago at a press conference that he had given instructions to one of the state’s directors on the board of ECGC to support the bid to purchase the company.

He had earlier blamed the closure of the plant on a series of events, which included the international financial crisis, along with local and regional competition and management and investment decisions.

Gonsalves said then that the government and the owners of the company had been working together to reopen the plant.

The ECGC is owned by Maple Leaf Mills (40%), private investors (primarily P.H. Veira and Co. Ltd) (40%) and the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (20%). The company produces flour, animal feed, rice and plastic bags.

Bottlers St Vincent Ltd is owned by a group of private investors.