Sources say another industrial relations storm might just be brewing amongst Corporate SVG; this time between the management of Bally and Bally Investments Ltd and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Department of Labour.
A rather terse missive dispatched by Labour Commissioner Racquel Jacobs-Lawrence and dated March 17, 2020 expressed, “it was brought to the attention of the Labour Department that your employees have been purchasing personal protective equipment provided by your company. Please be advised that your actions are in contravention with Section 4(4) of the Wages Regulation (Industrial) Orders 2017.
“Therefore, you must reimburse all of your employees who have purchased the gears including; Mr. Thomas Sutherland, Mr. Giles Patterson and Mr. Meshach Williams.
“Furthermore, Mr. Renson Davis along with the above mentioned names have lodged complaints against your company for vacation payments.
“Kindly, make all payments to these persons via the Labour Department by April 03, 2020 and failure to do so, would result in further legal actions against your company.”
The correspondence was carbon copied to Saboto Ceasar Minister of Agriculture, Labour et al and the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Raymond Ryan.
Asbert News Network understands that Bally and Bally has since responded to Labour Commissioner Jacobs-Lawrence decrying the allegations as listed. Company lawyer Ronnia Durham-Balcombe told ANN on Wednesday, “we consider some content of their letter defamatory and inaccurate.”
A well-placed source described the named claimants as being “disgruntled former employees” whose primary objective was to besmirch the battle scarred Bally and Bally Investments Limited, having been dismissed “for one or more dishonest reasons.”
Last year, charges brought against the local Customs & Excise department for what Bally and Bally Investments Ltd considered to be the abuse of power by one Customs Officer were ventilated in a Judicial Review before the High Court. The capital projects construction firm contended that the Customs Officer refused to permit the company from ‘clearing’ parts for various machines owned by the company as well as for the trucks that were being imported at the time.
Those goods “were packaged and placed for ease of shipping” on the back of one of two vehicles that were consigned to Bally and Bally Investments Inc. The company also contended that the Officer “acted unreasonably in more than doubling the values” of the 2 vehicles amongst other claims.
High Court Judge Nicola Byer granted partial success to Bally and Bally’s claim and as such awarded them costs. She ruled, in part, that the Customs Officer was “overzealous” but not “highhanded or oppressive” and as such dismissed the company’s prayer that“aggravated/exemplary damages” be awarded. She also quashed the officer’s decision to double the values of the vehicles in question.
Also last year, Bally and Bally was at loggerheads with the local Tenders Board regarding its processes for awarding tenders. One such dispute resulted in the Caribbean Development Bank cancelling its funding contract with the Vincentian government and issuing an order to have the monies already used repaid. Another more recent row petered out after the World Bank backed the Tenders Board’s rejection of another bid submitted by the company. “We believe … that the said bid is defective…” PM Gonsalves was quoted as attributing to correspondence received from that international funding agency.
On Thursday, Labour Commissioner Jacobs-Lawrence told this publication that she received the company’s response to her March 17 dispatch, but was “not in a position to disclose the contents of the letter.” As to the next steps, “the Department would take the necessary actions but what those actions would be I cannot disclose at this time.”