Vanuatu workers win battle with resort
A threatened staff walkout at a Vanuatu hotel leads to another 52 other workers getting their jobs back.
Hotel workers at Vanuatu's exclusive Warwick Le Lagon Hotel were the victors in a weekend battle over unpaid wages and allowances.
52 workers were sacked by the hotel on Saturday only to be reinstated 10 hours later after more than a 100 other staff members threatened to walk off the job.
The Vanuatu National Union of Workers was the key intermediary in helping the workers and the hotel management reach an amicable solution.
Its Secretary General, Ephraim Kalsakau, told Koroi Hawkins this sort of action is rare in Vanuatu.
EPHRAIM KALSAKAU: Some of our members, who are working in the kitchen at the Warwick Le Lagon, decided to stand down, over claims to do with tool allowance and docking of wages. We were then informed, that the 15 members who took part in the [initial] action, were to be terminated. So about half an hour later, all the workers decided to stop work over the, this termination. And then management decided to bring in the police and the workers wouldn't budge and this went on until an agreement was reached.
KOROI HAWKINS: Is this a common happening? In your experience with workers and there are many hotels and that in Vanuatu. Is this a common problem with workers and owners?
EK: It is a common problem in Vanuatu and that is why now, we have been finding that more hotel workers are joining the union and most of the time, their claims centre around allowances and wages.
KH: For the union, what has happened here with the Le Lagon, what precedent does that set?
EK: I think for me, after twenty six years of organising workers in this country, its the first time for me to see hotel workers going as far as what happened on the weekend. I am pretty happy with the workers. The hotels need to understand, that we want to talk about the issue. We know that our economy centres around tourists, but I would have expected the hotels to sit down and work things out with us, in a manner that would be good for all of us. I think their is only one thing I would like to add and that is that our biggest industry is the hospitality industry and I have been organising workers in the private sector and the public sector for over twenty years. I have been aware of the the unhappiness or the complaints of workers, but this is the first time for me to see people actually taking action and then supporting themselves in such a way. So I don't think it is a good sign, for people who, for companies who think that terminating workers is a good thing. I think they should realise, that its time for us to sit down and sort out things when they arise.
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