Dec. 6, 2004 – More than 50 laid-off workers protested in front of Hovensa Monday morning against what they called unfair hiring practices of a new subcontractor. The employees of P2S, a Hovensa subcontractor, were laid off on Thursday without prior notice, according to protestors.
Representatives of the 100 plus employees laid off on Friday say there is more to come. "At least 60 more will be laid off this week," said Mark Vitalis, leader of the protest. Vitalis said instead of rehiring employees who were working on the project the new company brought in workers from Texas and Louisiana. "It's discrimination," said Vitalis. "No locals are being hired. We are the ones who started the job. We already built the foundation." Vitals said the workers visited the offices of the Department of Labor on Friday to seek relief but "did not get any satisfaction."
Alexander A. Moorhead, Hovensa spokesman, said Monday General Electric terminated P2S's contract two weeks ago because of "non-compliance." Moorhead declined to state the reasons for the termination saying that "was a matter between GE and the sub-contractor." GE was contracted by Hovensa to install a new generator in the plant. Moorhead also said Hovensa requires contractors to post all vacancies with the labor department. "If they fail to comply they will be in violation," Moorhead said, adding he doesnt have any facts supporting non-compliance by the company.
Senator-elect Terrace "Positive" Nelson lent his support to the protesters. "These employees need to be re-instated and the imported workers need to be shipped back," Nelson said on Monday as he joined the protest line. Nelson said the legislature needs to "strengthen the consequences for companies who violate labor laws."
"We need to know who is responsible – Hovensa or the sub-contractor?" Nelson is the founder of Our Virgin Islands Labor Organization and is an AFT shop steward. Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste met with the workers on Friday.
Jose Luis Garcia joined the protest line in support of the workers. "We have people who are capable to do this job, Garcia said. "The administration needs to be more aggressive to correct this."
"We dont want to fight, we just want to work," laid-off worker Jorge Rentas said.
Calls to labor commissioner Cecil Benjamin and assistant commissioner Eleuteria Roberts were not returned as of press time.
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