By Bejay Browne
THE OWNER of a wellness resort in Latsi, Paphos has denied claims that all Cypriot and EU staff were fired and replaced with ‘volunteer’ workers being given free accommodation and food in return for unpaid labour.
Ajay Goyal is the owner of Zening resort, which finally opened to the public last year after overcoming numerous bureaucratic and financial obstacles that had threatened to scupper the launch of the eco-friendly, sustainable, health and wellbeing resort.
“We spent three hours at the labour office last week. This followed numerous investigations at the site and obviously nothing was found as we do everything legally,” Goyal told the Cyprus Mail.
He added: “All of our employees are Cypriot or European nationals; we don’t have any non EU employees.”
Savvas Kalasides of SEK union said the unions had complaints from around 20 people saying they had been fired and some replaced by the owner’s friends or volunteers. “We are waiting to see the findings of the labour office. If he is giving a place to stay and food and not paying people, this isn’t something which is allowed in Cyprus, it’s very strange for us.”
The businessman pointed out that Zening has paid more than €150,000 in social insurance payments so far and called the union’s comments “racist, Bolshevik lies”.
“They said we had 45 illegal staff; how could they imagine in this day and age that anyone would do this. Laws are in place and if it were true I would turn myself into the nearest police station for investigation straight away.”
Goyal say that in two years, Zening hasn’t done anything illegal and puts the latest debacle down to union anger over employees failure to join their ranks.
“They are simply upset that none of our employees want to sign a union contract and instead sign private employment contracts with us.”
However, he noted that Zening does support the ethos of social environmental travellers. He said many people chose to travel the world and some come to Cyprus and take part in a variety of campaigns, including clean ups, helping the turtles and highlighting illegal bird trapping practices.
He stressed: “If they stay with us, they don’t have any access to our work areas and don’t undertake any work at Zening. It’s preposterous to suggest that Americans and Australians would leave cushy jobs, pay for their own flights to come and volunteer at Zening just for a place to stay and food. I don’t even know how to answer these accusations, I’m stunned.”
Goyal said that the labour office had taken all of the employee contracts to examine them, but stressed that nothing is untoward.
“We are part of the life blood and oxygen of the community and have put at least three million euros into the local economy and homes this last year,” he said.
“They are making us miserable but I won’t be intimidated. There hasn’t been this level of foreign investment in the area for years, our treatment has been barbaric and I’m sick of it.”