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Harbour workers down tools, force meeting with top brass

The Daily Herald, 27 May 2000

PHILIPSBURG--Discontent among workers at the Harbour project spilled over yesterday as the workers downed tools and forced a meeting with management and the Board to air their grievances and to seek reassurances about their future with the St. Maarten Ports Authority (SMPA).

As a result of their action, Commissioner responsible for the harbour Theo Heyliger, as well as members of the SMPA board and the SMPA management, met with the workers for more than two hours yesterday and agreed that there will be another meeting with them at Holland House this afternoon.

At this afternoon's meeting the workers are expected to be given detailed reports about the company's operations and plans for the future.

Worker discontent has been boiling for several months at the harbour, with workers expressing dissatisfaction with the way the company was being managed, stressing that there was need for more worker involvement in decision-making and contending that reports about the SMPA's poor financial health left them with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads.

They have been agitating for some while for a meeting with management. However, Managing Director Sonny Hoo was off island for several days.

Hoo reportedly returned to the island two days ago and the workers decided to take action yesterday by downing tools and crippling operations.

Commenting on yesterday's meeting with the workers, Heyliger told The Daily Herald the workers had some misconceptions about what was going on at the SMPA and were concerned about their job security.

He said he spent much time listening to their complaints and answering their questions. The discussions will continue this afternoon.