Months after being promised severance payments from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), dozens of former workers at the Cliff Restaurant are yet to be paid and vowed continued protests outside the benefits agency.
On Monday, placard-bearing ex-workers gathered outside the Sir Frank Walcott Building at Culloden Road to protest under the watchful eyes of police.
The group’s spokesman, Jerome Farley, later told Barbados TODAY that they were simply fed up of the “run around” they were being given.
“We were too silent for too long. We need our money,” said Farley.
He explained that they have been promised payment from the NIS since August when they delivered their severance claims there, but to date, they are still awaiting this promise to be fulfilled although he was aware of several workers from other businesses who handed in their forms since they did have already received their severance payments.
Farley said: “If we don’t get word by tomorrow we will be back at the Cliff and the NIS on Thursday to protest again,”
The workers were laid off in March from the upscale St James restaurant, but it was in July that they were informed they were made redundant.
“In August we took the redundancy and severance forms to the NIS, and then in September they told us in a message that we would be paid our severance within four to six weeks, which means the middle of October, but we have not received it,” said Farley, as he outlined the sequence of what led to today’s protests.
He told Barbados TODAY: “We went back in November and they ran us around again, and then at the end of November they turned around and told us we will get it before Christmas.”
But Farley said that was not to be since one of the severed workers was informed that it was unlikely they would even get payment before January.
“People want to be paid by the end of the week,” he said. “This is five months we have been waiting.
“If we don’t get any word by tomorrow, we will be back there by Thursday.”
Farley told Barbados TODAY some of his former colleagues have been depending on family members for help, and that some of them had to come together to help out those most in need when it came to medication and rent.
He said: “We all chip in and help, and we have not gotten a word from Government to tell us what is going on.
“We have just been like chickens in a pen, we are being played over and over by them promising us our money from October and this is December, we can’t take it anymore.”
By law, the employer is responsible for making severance payment to an employee who is dismissed because of redundancy and who fulfils the other prescribed conditions.
It also requires an employer to make such a payment to an employee who has been laid off or kept on short time within the terms of the Severance Act.
But the law provides that in the event that a company declares it is unable to meet the severance payment, the Severance Fund, which is administered by the NIS, is in place to assist that employer in making the payment. That money would then be recovered from the employer.
The Barbados Employers Confederation has gone on record to declare that “even when not contested, and with the expedited procedures at the NIS, there is a process to be followed, which takes time” for severance payments to be made.