Ex-staff members of a hotel in FESTAC Town, Lagos, have called out the management of the facility, Chelsea Suites Limited, for allegedly refusing to pay their gratuities.
The former workers also lamented that while they were in the employ of the hotel, deductions were made from their salaries without corresponding remittances to their pension funds administrators.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the company in its conditions of service stated that certain percentage would be paid to staff members, who had spent five years and above, upon retirement or resignation.
The firm’s conditions of service dated July 8, 2004, and sighted by our correspondent read in part, “On employment, every employee joins the firm’s contributory terminal/insurance scheme. The percentage contribution is as follows: 10% of staff monthly gross salary contributed by staff; 15% of staff monthly gross salary contributed by the employer.
“On retirement or resignation, an employee’s entitlement will be as follows: (A) 1 to 5 years’ service; own contribution; (B) 5 to 10 years of service; own contribution plus company’s contribution and interest.
“… However, for those who joined the company before July 1, 2004, the number of years spent will be recognised. Specifically, a staff member who has spent up to five years and above as at July 1, 2004, the entitlement will be as follows: 20% of annual basic salary for each completed year as of July 1, 2004 for pension; and monthly gross salary for each completed year as of July 1, 2004 for gratuity plus (b) above.”
The ex-workers, however, accused the company of not keeping to the agreement.
One of its pioneer staff members, who worked as a receptionist for 18 years before resigning in 2016, Mrs Theresa Alexander, said the company had not been paying the entitlements of ex-workers for the more than seven years.
She said, “After resignation and before an employee leaves, the entitlements are supposed to be calculated and paid. For the past seven years, it has become a tug of war for the hotel to pay except there are attempts to sue them. There are some workers who left the company before me and up till now, they have not been paid.
“Aside from the gratuity, our pension was deducted from our salaries without remittance into our pension accounts for almost four years. When I was leaving, they promised that they were going to get back to me but up till now, I have not got anything. I am in dire need of the money. The last time I called, I was told that I was not the only person that left the company and that they would not pay me before those that left before me.”
A kitchen supervisor, Ms Caroline Nwaiwu, who resigned in 2015, said she worked for the hotel for 16 years adding that when she was leaving, her pension and gratuity were not paid.
A cleaner, Mrs Rabiat Ariede, said she worked for 18 years before she resigned in September 2017.
“Money was deducted from my salary to be saved into my pension account, but the management did not remit same. They were also supposed to pay my gratuity, but I did not get anything. My years of service went unappreciated,” she added.
A cook, Rasaq Osamo, said he was forced to resign in April 2015 due to challenges he had with his sight.
He said, “I worked there as a cook and as a restaurant waiter. The money they deducted for pension was not remitted into my accounts. When I asked, they said they were aware and they were using it for the running of the hotel.
“Due to the challenges I have with my sight, they terminated my appointment without giving me any entitlement,” he added.
The Director, Chelsea Suites, Mr Patrick Chidehie, said the firm had been struggling to stay in business due to the financial challenge, promising that aggrieved ex-workers would be paid when the company was buoyant.
He said, “The organisation has not made any profit from that venture in a while and we keep investing in it. Either we take what we can from the organisation and pay them off, shut down the business and everybody else goes hungry or we try and save up enough money to settle them without affecting too many people.
“It still brings employment to some people. So, if we have to shut down the business because of a few people that are disgruntled or feel they are unfairly treated, then a lot more people will become unemployed. So, it is a decision we had to make because of some other people as well.
“I am already funding an account, but the money is probably just enough to settle one person for now. So it does not make sense to settle just one person; what explanation would I give to the others?”
Chidehie, who admitted that pension was deducted from the ex-workers’ salaries without remittance, said the firm would pay the debt when it had enough funds.
“I think that was also one of the complaints and I have discussed with my lawyer about it. Like I said, I will do everything in my power to try and keep the place running, as well as please the people that work for me. My accountant knows about the pension thing as well. We know how much we need to build up before we can make payment. They should either go to the management to confirm a clearer date or they should wait for the account department to contact them,” he added.