Former staff of Apex voice out frustrations for non-payment of exit packages |02 March 2021
• “It feels almost surreal to say ‘I can’t feed my kids’”
Some former employees of Apex Hotel Supplies, who were made redundant in December 2020, have come forward to express their dissatisfaction at not having received their redundancy packages, more than two months after the fact.
The situation stems from the fact that Apex – one of the largest distributors of food and beverage supplies in the country – have requested for an extension from the Ministry of Employment and attempted to lodge an appeal.
As a consequence, the five Apex employees – four expatriates and a Seychellois – have found themselves without their financial settlement package which was promised to them by the company end of last year.
Two of these employees explained that they have been unable to meet their rent payments, with one adding that he only manages to feed his family thanks to help from family and friends. Although destitute, he asserted that he cannot leave the country until the issue is sorted.
“I did not come into this country to be a burden. I came to learn and I came to experience this beautiful place and enjoy myself, but now is my time to go and I will go. But I feel that I deserve to be treated humanely and not to have this feeling of insecurity on how I will give my kids food tomorrow. It feels almost surreal to say ‘I can’t feed my kids’,” he said.
He explained that a meeting was held in November 2020 between the five employees, the Ministry of Employment and Apex, as part of the negotiation process for redundancy, and it would seem that everyone had been on the same page at that point.
“We were made redundant and had no issue with the redundancy process because we understood where the company was coming from. We understood Apex’s position, and that everyone is struggling at this time. Before the redundancy was made official, no one indicated any need for clarification. Everyone approved and agreed on everything; from Apex’s side and from our part.”
Meaning that as they packed up their desks and left the Apex workplace in December, the five former employees had been reasonably reassured that their redundancy packages were guaranteed. The package promised would have included compensations for length of service, accrued leave and notice, depending on the conditions of the employee’s contract.
At the time of this article being written, the erstwhile employees had only received their salaries up to December 13, when the termination took effect.
The salary payments were transferred to their accounts on December 18 and Apex notified its former employees that “the notice period as per contract, accrued leave and compensation for length of service will all be transferred to your account next week in view that we need to have the ministry verify calculation”.
But Christmas and the New Year came and went without such happening.
According to former Apex employees, the company had until December 21, 2020 to lodge an appeal with the ministry, as per the Employment Act Section 65 sub paragraph 2, but more than a month elapsed before Apex indicated that it wanted to appeal.
Apex only requested an extension on January 14, 2021, a day before the payment deadline of January 15, 2021. The Ministry of Employment approved its extension up to January 26, 2021.
Email correspondences between Apex and the Ministry of Employment, received by the employees, shows that Apex only formally announced its intentions to appeal at the end of January.
The former employees of Apex who spoke with our newspaper noted that they have been left in the dark on the reason behind the appeal.
From the side of the Ministry of Employment, director for labour relations, Steve Monnaie, said that the ministry confirmed that there was an attempt from the company to appeal against the determination of the competent officer, nonetheless no formal appeal has been registered and no appeal fee paid.
Mr Monnaie added that instead of complying, Apex wrote to the ministry on “February 18, 2021 and February 26, 2021 alleging that submitting proof of payment within the deadline could not be done because it did not have the money for it and asked it ‘to reconsider’ its appeal and its determination”.
The ministry is yet to give a response to the letter dated February 26 received from Apex, requesting to reconsider its intention to appeal.
Mr Monnaie said that legal proceedings are initiated against an employer who fails to comply with a directive of the competent officer. Payment of final dues can always be made in the expatriate worker bank account if the worker is not physically in the country.
It is the responsibility of the employer to settle any outstanding payment as required under the law and submit proof thereafter, Mr Monnaie also highlighted.
The former employees of Apex are hoping that the attempts to appeal and requests for extensions are not part of manoeuvres to stall their exit payments.
At about 6.49pm yesterday, Apex had yet to officially provide a comment, although its general manager stated that he was busy and would contact our journalist at a later point.