Dismissed workers demand answers
The 36 Nicaraguan workers deported in November of last year have yet to receive word about when they should expect to return to work at Washington University.
“We want to return again. There’s no work here. We have siblings that are studying, our parents are unemployed and we have health issues to deal with because of the unemployment,” said Feliciano, a worker who was deported to Nicaragua after the University terminated its contract with G&G Building Services.
Top Care, Inc., the company subcontracted for grounds maintenance on the Hilltop Campus, stated in a letter that it had submitted an application asking for visas for the workers lasting from March 1, 2004 until December 31, 2004. The Nicaraguans have received no word, however, about whether or not the visas were granted.
Senior Sergio Salmeron has been the only contact between the deported workers and Top Care.
“I feel like Top Care hasn’t complied with what they said they would,” said Salmeron. “I understand they are guided by their business needs. They said they would bring [the workers] back and we feel they’re not complying with what they said and not living up to their word. First we heard they were going to go at the beginning of March, then the end of March. Now they’re saying the second week of April.”
Salmeron said he has not been able to succesfully contact Top Care. He does not know whether visas for the workers have been approved.
Bob Kruger, owner of Top Care and signer of the letter, was unavailable for comment.
Feliciano said he and the other workers were under the impression that they would be returning to St. Louis soon after their departure.
“That’s what we were told by the lawyer from the University,” said Feliciano. “That’s one of the commitments from the University, that we would come back for Top Care. That was the commitment and under that commitment we came back to Nicaragua. We trusted the University. We were sure that we were going to come back.
“We’re waiting for the answer from the University, any update, any information. We need to work. The only contact we’ve had is through Sergio because he’s been basically our tie. At this point, we are very, very worried because the month of March was supposed to be our return. It’s already April and we still haven’t heard anything.”
Ann Prenatt, the chair of the recently formed Task Force on Contractor Employees, could not comment on the specific situation, but believes that such issues will be addressed in new University policies.
“I would anticipate that a policy recommended by the Task Force should standardize the contracting procedures and therefore minimize the possibility of such a situation happening in the future,” said Prenatt.
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