Nine Tobagonians who were employed to work on the Galleons Passage have has their services terminated via a WhatsApp message with the reason given being that the ferry was in service fewer days that originally anticipated.
The workers were notified of their dismissal on January 4 by their employer, Estate 101, which had the concession to provide cleaning and cafeteria staff for the ferry. One dismissed worker, speaking with Newsday Tobago on the condition of anonymity, said that she had been employed by Estate 101’s Chief Executive Officer Debra Cumberbatch.
She said the workers were never given contracts and were employed from October 15 through to December 30. She said the manner in which they were sent home was unprofessional.
“We came together as a group to stand up for our rights as Tobagonians… the fact that Miss Debra didn’t even keep a meeting with us before letting us go through WhatsApp was very unprofessional,” she said.
The WhatsApp message of termination read: “It is with great regret that I inform you that your services on board the Galleons Passage will no longer be required with immediate effect. This is because the vessel will continue to only work for four days per week, instead of five or six days per week, as originally anticipated, thus making the need for two separate crews unnecessary.
“You will be contacted on Monday to make arrangements to return your shirts and aprons and to collect all outstanding wages. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.”
When contacted, Cumberbatch said that she was forced to cut staff because of the shortened days for sailing of the Galleon’s Passage.
“Only in late December, I was informed by NIDCO (National Infrastructure Development Company Limited), a decision was made to have my company work four days instead of additional days, offering cleaning crews and cafeteria staff.
“As a result, it would not have been viable to have two separate crews on board. Workers were informed every step of the way that the situation was a challenging one and a decision would have to be made,” she said.
Contacted for comment, Port Authority’s Chief Executive Officer, Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, said that all inquiries on the issue should be directed directly to NIDCO which was responsible for hiring the concessionaire.
Contacted for comment, NIDCO’s Communications Manager, Nasir Mohammed promised a response on the matter via email but up to press time on Tuesday, no information was forthcoming.