To The Editor:
I am writing in response to an article entitled “After a Fall, Ms Stevens Looks for Help”, which appeared in the May 2008 issue of The Observer newspaper on pages 7 and 8.
As a former Union member, I read this article with sadness and I wish Ms. Stevens the best possible recovery under the circumstances and hope she will receive the compensation from the St. Kitts Marriott Hotel for her injuries and for the damage to her quality of life.
I concur with the comments made by Mr. Clifford Thomas in regards to the positive role a Union could have played, through its shop stewards to assist Ms. Stevens in this case, and also for health and safety issues forming part of the collective bargaining agreements. As there have been previous falls by other kitchen staff, the hotel should have been more pro-active by establishing safeguards after the first fall by a member of staff to try and prevent as much as humanly possible other accidents occurring.
In the firm I worked with abroad, the Head of Human Resources and the Health and Safety Union representative made formal monthly inspections of the building to check for problems that might need addressing by management. I would type the report of the inspection and I would implement any changes that needed to be done. If the Union Representative was not available, I would accompany the Head of Human Resources on the inspection tour. Apart from these formal inspection tours, every morning I made my own inspection of the building while I was delivering items to kitchens and toilets. I would ask staff members if they had any concerns or if there were any requests.
I was shocked to read in the article that the insurance policy of the St. Kitts Marriott Hotel does not cover injury in the workplace. Is this to discourage employees from making claims? If Union representation was in place the Union Representative and the Hotel Management could discuss this policy and revise the policy for the benefit of all concerned.
It was also stated in the article, that workers compensation is no longer a direct responsibility of the employer, as through the Social Security Act, workers compensation is now paid by Social Security. The Social Security Board has allowed the St. Kitts Marriott Hotel to opt out of its moral obligation to compensate Ms. Stevens for the serious injury she suffered while working for the Hotel. I would suggest that the Social Security Board rethink this clause.
As a result of this accident at the Marriott, I would suggest that employees at the St. Kitts Marriott join a union, as should other workers in the Federation. As one never knows when an accident or any other incident may occur and no one would want to suffer the way Ms. Stevens has, not only as a result of the accident itself but also by the seeming callousness of the Hotel Management.