Leewind Paints (1980) Ltd. has temporarily closed its doors in Antigua and Barbuda, leaving an unknown number of staff jobless after two months without pay.
In a letter to staff dated June 29, managing director, Hugh Marshall Sr., said the company was unable to meet salary commitments for the months of May and June.
Twice this year, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, a shareholder of Leewind 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 breach of an agreement.
“In the months of February and April, the government assisted in meeting those salary payments, but find it unacceptable to continue in the light of an agreement signed October 30, 2014 between the majority shareholder, Ms. Renee Phillips and Mr. Cosmos Phillips Jr, to transfer shares to the government in exchange for tax arrears,” Marshall Sr. stated in the letter.
In January 2015, government had written off $2 million owed in corporation and sales taxes to acquire more shares in the paint manufacturer which would make it the majority shareholder.
But, according to the letter, without the transfer being complete, Leewind Paints is unable to raise funds from the banks, as the auditors are unable to certify the transaction.
The letter went on to state that in light of these “difficult hurdles”, the company was forced to close the plant on June 29, until further notice.
“We acknowledge that you are entitled to a month’s notice, but due to circumstances agree that a payment of a month’s salary for the monthly staff remains a liability of Leewind Paints (1980) Ltd. The arrears to salary will now stand at two months plus one month in lieu of notice and weekly workers where three weeks wages are outstanding and a week’s lieu of notice,” the managing director said.
In September 2016, the government of Cuba had expressed an interest in Leewind Paints, which is located in Coolidge, in a partnership with Antigua and Barbuda to explore export opportunities.
This was contained in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between both parties.