A number of employees of S.G. DeFreitas & Company LTD, are calling on management to pay overtime wages, which date back to 2017.
The workers who reached out to the St. Vincent Times said they have been working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for years and were only recently made aware that regulations regarding working hours were changed in 2017 to ensure that one hour for lunch was incorporated within the 8 hours of work.
St. Vincent Times understands the company halted the 9-hour work day at the end of January or early February 2023.
When St. Vincent Times contacted the company on Friday to ask if they were aware of the situation and how soon it would be rectified, Manager Josette Best said they were aware.
“Yes, we are looking at it. We got the complaint, and we are addressing it”.
When asked if there was a timeframe as to when the workers would be paid, Best said, “No, but we would be addressing it soon”.
Best told the St. Vincent Times that she could not say from memory how workers were entitled to the overtime payment.
A Labour Department official who chose to speak to the St. Vincent Times under anonymity on Friday said, “The department would have received calls regarding the matter, but no one came to lodge a complaint. So yes, we received calls inquiring about the situation”.
The official also told the St. Vincent Times that an individual from the company called towards the end of April and asked for some information regarding the matter.
“Someone from management called, and I did indicate and explain everything. So they are aware, but I think they said they were making some payments or something. That’s why they had called for clarification as well”, the official said.
Workers told the St. Vincent Times that since the changing of the work hours in late January or early February of this year, there has been no communication, either by word of mouth or letter, indicating when they would be paid the overtime.
On Sunday, an industrial consultant with over 20 years of experience told the St. Vincent Times that while the regulations before 2017 only stated 8 hours of work and did not speak to the lunch hour as part of the 8-hour work day, the company would have had wiggle room; however, upon changing the regulations in 2017 to state that a 1-hour lunch is now part of the 8 hours, there is no escaping payment due to workers.
S.G.DeFreitas & Co. Ltd is one of the leading building mechanical services companies in St. Vincent & the Grenadines since 1969, offering some of the most advanced and energy efficient systems in the Caribbean region.
Lee Yan is a journalist based in Cebu, Philippines. For the past 10 years, he has worked in the media and writes part-time for the St. Vincent Times.