City Market workers fear store closures

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March 24, 2012

Some managers and line staff employees of City Market food stores yesterday claimed that the parent company, Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL), plans to close its doors throughout New Providence on Friday, and is currently seeking a new buyer for the grocery store chain.
News of the pending closure came during a meeting held on Thursday between some representatives of Bahamas Commercial Stores Supermarket & Warehouse Workers Union and BSL officials, according to several shop stewards.
Chief shop steward for the South Beach branch, Albertha Rahming, said there has recently been a great deal of uncertainty about the company's future, however, employees have continued to show up for work because they wanted to give the owners the benefit of the doubt.
Despite numerous attempts to reach BSL President Mark Finlayson and Executive Vice President Nikki Beouf to determine whether its stores would close next week, calls were not returned up to press time.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said he had also received reports of the store closures yesterday, but was also unable to reach any representatives from BSL.
He said while he did not know exactly what was going on he had already advised workers to file a trade dispute with the Department of Labour.
Foulkes added that the government would do all that it can to protect City Market employees' rights and interests.
Rahming said morale is extremely low among employees but at this point they simply want a fair severance package and to be given their pension money in full.
"We want our bosses to come and meet with us, and pay us our money," said Rahming, as she stood among around 15 other City Market employees at the store's South Beach branch.
"Even if [they] cannot pay us all, pay us something. They didn't even let us know what was going on. There is no respect for the staff...and this simply isn't right [because] people are hurting - we are hurting."
City Market's Chief Inventory Control Officer Whanslaw Turnquest also claimed that BSL officials have not been up front with managers of the company.
He said it is his duty to ensure that employees and pensioners get what is due to them if the grocery store chain closes on Friday.
Turnquest, who has been employed with the company for over 20 years, claimed that many employees are owed up to three-weeks back pay and have been working only two and three days per week.
"It is unbelievable that some employees are not taking home even $50 a week," he said.
"You have persons that have been working in the company for 40 years...A lot of these employees have been on two and three days from the early part of the year. The entire corporate office was put on two days since Monday. We are now under one umbrella."
He added that a formal notice was sent to officials at the Department of Labour, the Office of the Prime Minister and to the attorney general and auditor general about their concerns.
Turnquest indicated that workers have also sought legal advice.

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News date : 03/24/2012    Category : Nassau Guardian Stories

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