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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022


A St. Thomas-St. John District lawmaker is asking management at the St. John Westin Resort to compensate its workers for wages they lost as a result of not reporting for work during and immediately after Hurricane Lenny. The resort's new general manager says the resort's policy of not paying employees for days not worked has a basis in law and will not be changed.
Sen. Roosevelt David issued a statement over the weekend appealing to Westin management to pay the workers for time lost because of the storm. He said he had received "dozens" of complaints from employees at the resort who found their pay docked after Lenny.
"I understand there was no obligation on the part of the hotel to pay its employees for the disaster interruption," Roosevent said. But, he added, "a goodwill gesture, in paying, could only build employer-employee relationships."
David said some of the hotel workers who lost wages were on hand to help secure the property before the onset of storm conditions and assisted with clean-up efforts afterwards. But Greg Lundberg, Westin's new general manager, said the company policy is that hotel workers wanting to draw pay for the time they were not on the job would have to deduct it from their accrued vacation or personal leave time.
"Our policies and procedures regarding wages and salaries are consistent with all local and federal labor laws," Lundberg said Monday. "The specifics are private to the individuals employed by the hotel."
At St. John's other major resort, Caneel Bay, and at the only other sizable hotel on the island, Gallows Point, policies regarding storm emergency leave have either never come up or have recently undergone revision.
Len Otley, Gallows Point general manager, said his workers had a point when they said they were absent because of circumstances beyond their control. Many of the island's hotel workers commute from St. Thomas, he noted, and could not report for work even if they wanted to because ferries were out of service in the days during and immediately after Lenny's passing.
"We made some changes during Lenny," Otley said. "We have two or three employees who stay with us — I live on the property — and they get paid for their hours plus a bonus because they stayed." He said other Gallows employees are getting paid for a portion of the time they could not report because of the storm emergency.
Luis "Tito" Morales, local head of the the United Steelworkers of America, which represents workers at Caneel, said he has never heard Caneel employees complain about wages lost during a hurricane. "We don't have a problem with them being paid," he said. "That's not their fault." He said he had heard of hotel workers losing wages under similar circumstances in the past, on both St. John and St. Thomas, in cases largely involving non-unionized workers.
In a hurricane situation, management gets paid, regardless, Morales said, "so how is it that hotel workers don't get paid?" He has asked the Legislature to formulate guidelines to protect workers at risk of losing pay because of hurricanes and other storm emergencies.
David chairs the Senate's Labor and Veterans Affairs Committee. In that capacity, he said, "I had an obligation to look into it."

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