Former Jolly Beach Resort (JBR)workers are concerned and upset that they have not received their severance payments, promised by Prime Minister Gaston Browne more than three weeks ago.
The workers have been waiting for their severance and other entitlements for over two years now. And although the Antigua and Barbuda Worker’s Union (ABWU) has collaborated with them to ensure their payout tallies are correct, no one has been issued a cheque, to date.
Responding to a question from MP Jamale Pringle, during a recent sitting of Parliament, Browne claimed the severance money is in an escrow account; and it is left to the Administrator of the property to determine when those funds will be disbursed, he said.
Meanwhile, a man called in to a radio programme over the weekend, complaining that he and the former employees continue to struggle. Some of them have lost their vehicles or homes; some are owing rent; and others are unable to support their families, he says.
The disgruntled resident says the Browne Administration should save itself the embarrassment and pay up the severance and gratuities – or he, along with others, is willing to chain himself to the gates of the property before the hotel can be opened again.
The former employee is asking whether there is actually any money being held in escrow, as is alleged by PM Browne.
Meanwhile, Alex Browne – the United Progressive Party Candidate for St. Phillip’s North and a former Jolly Beach worker, himself – is also wondering what is taking so long for the money to be released from escrow.
But, in the meantime, he is extending appreciation to the Union for its hard work in assisting workers to verify what is owed to them.
The former employees are owed more than $7 million, reportedly. The hotel was forced to close its doors in March 2020 as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated its existing financial woes.
The St. James’s Club Antigua Limited is now conducting repairs on the hotel with a view to reopening it by mid-December.