Several of the recently severed Hot 97 employees have indicated their resolve to legally exhaust all options in pursuit of severance payments they claimed are owed to them.
The populist media house was one of the most noticeably impacted by the COVID-19 occasioned economic fallout, here. To stem the supposed burgeoning losses, managing director Luke Boyea told social media audiences that his company offered its staff the choice between a 60% pay cut and a temporary layoff, without prejudice.
Last May, it became apparent that the offered and initially accepted pay cut was not feasible even for the two month period for which it was first proposed and 8 radio personalities decided that the next best course of action was to stay at home when attempts to renegotiate their salaries failed.
The former staffers were later terminated as the station’s boss, “got in his feelings” following the abrupt departure of over 50% of his workforce. Although further attempts were made to ascertain that their jobs were safe and such guarantees were allegedly provided by Boyea, by the end of the two month period the fact that they were indeed jobless was evident.
To date none of the redundant staffers have been able to collect any of their severance allotments as accorded by local labor laws. This, we were told, was due to Boyea’s stance that they abandoned their jobs and as such forfeited their rights to severance.
Our attempts to secure a response from Luke Boyea are as yet unsuccessful.
His claims though have been vehemently denied by more than one former staff. SupaDawg Pitbull told us, “we are telling the truth and he is telling lies and I would tell him that to his face. We did not walk off the work.”
The former Hot 97 SVG announcer-cum-DJ shared with us a letter that Boyea purportedly supplied in support of Pitbull’s moratorium application since he was unable to keep up with his financial obligations.
“The bank said I needed to get a letter from my boss stating the situation. I went to him; if we walked off the work – now this is between the first impromptu meeting which he called the ambush meeting and the final meeting before we got fired – between those 2 meetings me and couple other people requested those letters to take to the banks or various institutions… he did not decline, he did not refuse. I have the letter home here.”
A copy of the letter that was made available to ANN was dated May 1, 2020 and begged “Whom It May Concern” to “please extend whatever courtesies” that the bearer “may need in this trying time.” In the main, the note explained that a “massive decline in advertising revenue” prompted the 19 years old radio station “to implement a temporary reduction in all salaries for two months in the first instance in an effort to keep everyone employed.”
The note was apparently signed by Luke Boyea in his capacity of managing director. It also conveyed the fact that the bearer decided to “stay at home … and to resume employment when the economic conditions improve” like he was also encouraged to do as per the other option promoted by the station’s management.
SupaDawg Pitbull is adamant that he did not forsake his 14 years old job and that the aforementioned letter plus his recorded inquires about his job security are further proof that he expressed interest in returning to work up until he realized his regular shift was rebranded, recast and reformatted. Therefore, Pitbull asserted, he is within his rights to demand post-employment compensation.
As far as the redundant employees are concerned, their labor rights were violated even before Boyea’s alleged refusal to honor their severance payments.
“The Labour Department said – even before we could get to that part where he said we walked off the job – the Labor Department guidelines and regulations state if you cutting salaries you have to cut hours. That is a legal clause in the Labor Department… especially if you’re cutting such a drastic amount of pay, you must have a proportionate cut in the amount of hours of work which he did not do.
“In the second instance having a salary cut is one thing but every policy change in an organization must be documented which [Boyea] did not do. He did not give us documentation to state the obvious effects of the pandemic and the response of the station. He did not do that.
“And even further, under these pandemic regulations, what I’m learning is that, no one is supposed to be dismissed. If you’re dismissed, you are supposed to regain employment with that organization after whatever specified period,” Pitbull also reported.
The Department’s website (http://dol.gov.vc/) lists links to guidelines for employers and employees particularly in COVID-19 times. One set of stipulations state, “section 27 (1) of the Protection of Employment Act 2003 makes provisions for a lay off period. Lay off is a temporary measure to be used in cases where there is a temporary closure of operations.
“However, please note the following: A. Notice or payment in lieu of notice is not required for a lay off period. However, employees must be informed if they are going to be laid off. [It would be reasonable to inform the employee at least one week in advance.]
“B. The lay off period was increased from six weeks to eight weeks, [up to September 30, 2020]. If the lay off period prolongs for more than eight weeks, an employee can claim to be terminated and seek severance payment for years of service.
“C. After the lay off period, an employer must provide work to an employee of substantially similar terms to the previous employment for a period of 13 weeks. If such offer is not made, within a week following the lay off period, then the employee can claim for severance payment.”
ANN understands that several persons are currently pursuing legal counsel. Formal complaints are yet to be filed with the Labor Department, though several members of the ousted crew expressed, “right now we have to carry him Court for our severance.”