Why was this not identified earlier?
The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board will come to an end on June 30th and as a result, the staff of that organization will receive separation packages. Based on my sources, it is alleged that the staff received a letter in February 2023 with a breakdown of what they will be expected to receive on June 30th. Some staff believed there were some errors, and the first letter was rescinded, and a new letter was issued in March 2023.
Now, a week later before the official closure of the Tourist Board, the staff was told that the calculations were incorrect. Apparently, the calculations included severance pay and redundancy pay. There were no calculations for gratuity even though it is expected that staff that were there for more than 10 years are expected to gratuity.
It is unfortunate that this situation has occurred. Mistakes do happen but this is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Why was a thorough check not done before the letters were issues? Who is holding who responsible for this?
The Staff’s Position
I know the staff is very disappointed because they perhaps had plans based on the letters they received in March. Furthermore, they have not received any confirmation as to whether they will get employment in the DMO or the Regulatory Body within the Ministry of Tourism. Therefore, as of July 1st, they will be unemployed.
The staff believed it is unfair at the very last minute to change the letters and it not their fault that the calculations were misstated.
The Government’s Position
In a press release by the Government, the Minister of Tourism acknowledged that based on the laws of the Turks and Caicos, separation packages must be provided to the staff, but they must follow the labour laws and the guidelines set out in the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board’s staff policies and procedures manual. The past interim director said that due to the miscalculations, some individuals received double payment. I suppose it was double because individuals were getting both severance and redundancy payments. Therefore, the Government position is that legally, they should not be overpaying individuals and hence the letters issued in March were rescinded. The new calculations will now include severance pay and a gratuity payment for staff that were with the Tourist Board for more than 10 years in accordance with the staff manual.
First, the Government appears to be correct that the staff should not be getting both severance pay, and redundancy pay. Because of the closure of the Tourist Board, the staff positions of the Board are nonexistent and so they have basically become redundant and so they should get redundancy pay. Severance pay involves employees who are terminated before their contract has ended and this is something that is very common in the United States.
The laws of the country must be upheld and so I understand the Government’s position in adhering to the law. However, the Government is the body that sets laws and can implement any law or policy they wish if it is approved in cabinet and House of Assembly.
I have empathy for the staff of the Tourist Board given the uncertainty of their employment status and the fact that they were given letters months in advance and were depending on these severance packages.
My position is that the Government should put a special policy in place so that the staff cannot be disadvantaged by the compensation they were hoping to receive. For example, this Government provided three stimuli packages and a policy was put in place so that this can happen. It just seems unfair at the eleventh hour; the letters were rescinded. What if these mistakes were discovered after June 30th, what would have happened?
I hope this compensation fiasco is a learning lesson for all of us. We must ensure before we sign off on anything that the information is accurate and there is supporting documentation including the relevant laws to support the calculation.
Finally, this miscalculation has created an upset among the staff and some people in the community and they have a right to be upset. It has also resulted in personal and political attacks, which I believe are not called for. Let’s be honest, if the Opposition were in Government, they too would have to follow the law of the country and would not pay both severance and redundancy.