Antigua Observer:- Chairman of the board of Lee Wind Paints Ltd., Hugh Marshall Sr., has said that the auction of the company’s property should lead to a settlement of severance owed to the recently released staff.
The company’s property, which Marshall said was worth $4 million, went up for auction yesterday and last night, a source who was involved in the process said it was sold for $3.6 million.
“If they are selling the property then it should be more than just paying the staff but also paying their severance. I don’t have to speculate because I am negotiating for our staff to be paid their severance and that has already been calculated,” Marshall said yesterday.
He said that the company has been locked out of its account since 2014 by the Royal Bank of Canada because the late Cosmos Phillips Sr. still owned the majority of shares and had accumulated an overdraft of EC $350,000. Marshall claimed that the company was successful in decreasing the overdraft amount by about $100,000. However, the $4 million property was still being sold because of the overdraft.
He also revealed that the total severance owed to workers amounts to approximately EC $900,000 and he has kept the union representing the workers abreast regarding workers’ severance.
Marshall expressed frustration with what he described as a lack of improvement in the behaviour of the Phillips family, who according to him, was supposed to hand over the certificate to government which would have made the government the majority shareholder in the company in exchange for the government waiving $2 million in taxes owed by Lee Wind Paints. This agreement was signed in October 2014.
He said that on October 31, 2014, Renee Phillips and Cosmos Phillips Jr. signed an agreement to hand over those shares but are yet to do so. He described the Phillips as being ‘very shifty’ since the signing of the agreement.
According to Marshall, despite the Phillips reneging on their deal, the government has paid off quite a few of the company’s debts. He stated that the company had stopped manufacturing because it owed its overseas suppliers – based in Miami – in excess of EC $700,000 and the government had paid that off.
The chairman stated that he has been trying to work along with the legal representative of the Phillips family, attorney-at-law, Lawrence Daniel, to resolve the ongoing issue. However, he admitted that Daniel has been unable to get his clients to shift from their position. In addition to that, Daniel is said to be out of the country on vacation and will not be back until the end of August.
Marshall disclosed that he received a phone call on Wednesday afternoon from a female attorney whom he thought was working along with the Phillips to get the matter resolved but she called him back and said she was having difficulty communicating the gravity of the situation to Cosmos Phillips Jr.
In recent weeks, the company closed its doors, leaving staff jobless and without pay. In a letter to staff dated June 29, Marshall said, the company was unable to meet salary commitments for the months of May and June.
The workers are also owed severance and payment in lieu of notice since they learned on June 29 that the company was closing that very day.
Twice this year, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, a shareholder of Lee Wind Paints, had assisted with salary payments, however, the government is now unwilling to assist the company in its latest request for assistance due to the alleged breach of an agreement.