Lawyer's vow to workers in fight for cash
FN News Editor
Former Home Centre and Freeport Concrete Company employees are drumming up legal support in their fight to get the money that is owed to them.
Lawyer Osman Johnson has announced he is taking the lead in helping to secure the terminated workers' compensation and plans to agitate until the very end.
Johnson said at a press conference at Millennium House, that retribution for the 70 fired workers as a result of the closure of both businesses could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I have received various reports from the former employees which includes serious accusations against the owners and senior management," he said.
"We aim to prove these accusations before our courts; we aim to seek penalties against these individuals if possible [and] we are going to carry these through until the very end."
Johnson, who is the former Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidate in the last general election, insists the group was taken advantage of, and he intends to seek justice for them.
"(Bahamians) will find ourselves in a situation where their rights will not be trampled; where they will have the opportunity to work and to earn honest money in their own country without having to worry about a foreign company coming in, taking advantage of them and then being applauded by the government that they have put in power after all of this has been said and done," he said.
"It has happened many times before. There are so many examples of this occurrence that I do not even need to speak of them on air. We are tired of it and we want compensation right now."
The Home Centre and Freeport Concrete employees were given a letter of termination on June 21, 2010, which took immediate effect.
A cheque for salary up until that day accompanied the letter.
The reason, the letter stated, was a result of the "continuous financial decline of the company."
The letter also stated that once a liquidator had been appointed, an attempt would be made to sell the assets of the company and, "if possible," the workers would be paid what they were entitled to under the law.
Not long afterwards, the companies moved into liquidation.
Johnson pointed out people's lives are being affected.
"These are not figments of our imagination; these are not just stories that you read about in the newspaper. The persons who are seated here are affected every single day by what has happened," he said.
"They have lost tens of thousands of dollars of severance pay of other things and monies that were rightfully due to them being long-term employees in these companies."
Johnson insisted that Bahamians cannot allow such things to take place any longer in the country.
"We now have a new PLP administration. We are challenging them to do something to assist; we are challenging them to hold true to the promises that they made personally to some of the people seated around me and we need them to do it now," said Johnson.
The building, which is owned by Austrian-born businessman Hannes Babak, was leased to Ray Simpson for the operation of the Home Centre and Freeport Concrete. Babak, in an earlier interview, told The Freeport News that he was merely a shareholder and himself lost more than $1 million, and had to invest more money in the space once occupied by the Home Centre with the opening of an indoor mini mall.
Simpson told this daily that he, too, took a loss when he stayed on with Freeport Concrete after the bank took over and would have liked to rehire all of the staff when the company reopened under new ownership by his son.
© 2012 The Freeport News