Former workers of the Deluxe Cinema took to the streets yesterday and forced their ex-boss Charles “Max” Fernandes to pay severance and other benefits owed to them since they were terminated in January.
The ex-workers – three women – remained resolute at the entrance of the building from noon until 2 pm, carrying placards that read, “It’s been too long!” and “Max Fernandes we want our money!!!”
In the end, management buckled and prepared a cheque that was handed over to the workers’ bargaining agent, Antigua & Barbuda Free Trade Union (ABFTU).
But before that was achieved, the picketers, who once worked in a snackette in the theatre, were reportedly ignored even as they paced in front of the High Street business from noon until 2 pm and answered queries from several passers-by who asked about their plight.
They said the company gave them notice on December 31, 2011, that it was restructuring and their services would no longer be needed from January 3, 2012.
They further explained that an installment plan was agreed upon as it relates to payment of terminal benefits and all monies were to be delivered by May 31.
General Secretary of the union representing the workers, Stafford Joseph, told OBSERVER Media the workers received two installments towards their severance benefits earlier in the year but the May 31 deadline passed without final payment being made.
He said, “In all it is four workers but one was part time and we are still negotiating on her behalf. The other three were promised full payment by May 31. We accepted their inability to pay all by that day because we understand the current economic situation and was being patient.“
For weeks, Joseph said, no information was forthcoming as to when the balance of the benefits would have been paid and workers, in frustration, decided to picket the city theatre.
“These women have families, children to take care of and they have to think about their responsibilities too. I must commend them for showing the courage they did and value they’ve shown for themselves,” Joseph said.
The workers have three to four years service with the company.
Efforts to reach Fernandes were futile.
A two-hour picket by disgruntled former workers of Deluxe Cinema ended happily for them as their action forced former boss Charles “Max” Fernandes to pay them severance monies owed.
The three women, who once worked in the confectionary booth at the city theatre, walked away with a collective five thousand dollars balance that was due them.
The workers’ union representative Stafford Joseph said the workers were laid off on January 3, 2012 hence severance and other monies became due.
Joseph said the Antigua & Barbuda Free Trade Union and the businessman had reached an agreement on how and when the monies would be paid.
An instalment plan was discussed with the final payment to be made at the end of May.
According to Joseph, two payments were made but the final amount was not delivered as promised.
He said the workers restrained from protesting right away as they gave consideration to the businessman’s economic struggles.
However, Joseph said they decided to picket the theatre Friday when it appeared the monies were not forthcoming even after more than two months had elapsed.
Joseph said the businessman prepared a cheque for the workers and once that was done, the picket ceased.