WORKERS LEFT IN THE COLD
Tuesday, 7 January 2014
NEWRY on Ice staff have been left out in the cold after organisers of the event failed to pay wages to more than 30 workers.
The so-called Winter Wonderland, which has been dogged by controversy, had been situated at the Albert Basin. It was due to start on December 7 but remained closed for the first 48 hours, with weather conditions being blamed.
When the gates finally opened, customers took to facebook and Twitter to complain about a number of problems - from overpriced tickets to a lack of attractions, such as the Big Wheel and drive-in cinema, which failed to materialise despite being publicised.
Now the debacle has worsened with 35 out of 37 staff being left out of pocket when the southern company left the city yesterday.
The workers, the majority of which are under 18, were told they would be paid £7 per hour, and that they would be paid in two instalments, one before Christmas and one after.
Owen Jones, 17, Keith Dowd, 22, and Jane Patterson, 18, spoke to the Democrat about their battle to get the money they earned.
Owen said: "We were due to get paid on Sunday, but the girl who dealt with all of that didn't turn up. She texted saying she had quit her job on Friday and that it was nothing to do with her any more.
“About 13 of us then went to the Canal Court for an emergency meeting about what to do. We met with a union rep who has just been brilliant. Out of the group there we worked out that about £4,000 was owned to us, so you can imagine how much the total is.
“I worked from December 13-16 and I got paid for that. But after that I worked 50 hour weeks and am owed about £750. It's sickening. It's just a complete sham and we're all totally devastated.
“We had a feeling right from the start that something wasn't right with the way it was run but we didn't think this would happen."
Keith said the alarm bells began ringing when he received his first pay check: "The pay slip had no company name on it and it said I had been taxed which I shouldn't have. But when I phoned up HMRC they said no tax been paid in my name. Something just wasn't right."
Jane, who is owed over £400, said: "This is really devastating for us. Most of us are all under 18, so this was a first job for most of us.
“We've selected a few members of the group to be representatives and keep contacting the organisers but they either won't answer their phones or are fobbing us off saying it's nothing to do with them. It's very upsetting."
However the determined group of young people have said they will continue to fight for the money they earned.
Last night (Monday), a silent protest was scheduled to take place outside the Council offices on Monaghan Row from 7-8pm.
Meanwhile the organisers' facebook page has been bombarded with complaints from staff, members of the public, and political representatives - demanding the company pay up.
Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said: "This is a disgraceful situation which has left over 30 young people without their wages immediately after Christmas. The company involved has a moral obligation to pay their workers what they are owed. I will be working with local trade unions and colleagues to help ensure that people get what is due to them."
Sinn Féin group leader Councillor Charlie Casey said: "This is a terrible situation and I appeal to the event managers to honour their commitment to their staff immediately.
“I know that Newry and Mourne Council officials are seeking an urgent meeting with the Newry on Ice representatives and I hope that this can take place today or in the days ahead. The event staff gave up much of their Christmas break to work at the venue. It is completely disgraceful that they have not received the money which they have earned."
In a statement, the Council, which provided the site for the event, said: "Newry and Mourne District Council is disappointed that the organisers of Newry on Ice have not honoured their commitments and the Council will be convening a meeting with the organisers in an attempt to resolve the matter."
The Democrat made numerous attempts to contact the organisers of Newry On Ice but received no response at time of going to press.
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