About a month before terminating the contracts of four senior employees, the Cayman Islands Port Authority board agreed to bring in 20 new staff members, records from a late July meeting show.

The port board members voted July 31 to accept a request from Acting Port Director Joey Woods to hire 16 new cargo workers and four maintenance staffers, according to meeting minutes published on the port’s website.

Six of the new hires will be brought in to staff nighttime dock operations in George Town, where port employees help off-load containers for transfer to the Cargo Distribution Centre on North Sound Road. Ten others will work at the North Sound Road cargo center.

The July 31 meeting minutes also made reference to a potential legal claim from Port Authority night-shift workers, where a letter was received from a law firm representing the workers.

“Port Authority Cayman Islands night staff [allege] that they have been short paid for vacation, sick and other leave from 2007 to 2017,” the meeting minutes read. “[Mr. Woods] advised that it is being investigated internally to determine if correct and that the [Port Authority’s] attorney had written to [the law firm] seeking additional time to verify the claim.”

The minutes also record a change in policy for all night-shift workers at the port, as of the meeting date – July 31. The change abolished a previous policy allowing nighttime staff to receive time-and-a-half pay and instead required that all port staff be paid a fixed monthly rate, regardless of whether they worked days or nights.

The Cayman Islands Port Authority, which is a separate statutory authority run by a board of directors appointed by the Cayman Islands government, has fallen in and out of financial difficulties for the past several years, according to annual financial audits. Most recently, Cayman’s Auditor General Sue Winspear reported that it appeared the port had overspent its personnel budget by some $400,000 during 2017, mainly due to hiring several senior staff positions that did not previously exist.

Port Director Clement Reid told the Cayman Compass in February that he believed, and was advised by the port’s chief financial officer, that the spending was in line with the agency’s approved budget. However, Ms. Winspear’s office was able to demonstrate that was not the case in her audit released to the port board in December 2017.

Between Friday and Monday, four of the new senior staff positions, brought in by Mr. Reid’s administration between mid-2016 and mid-2017, were terminated from their existing contracts, Mr. Woods confirmed.

Those positions included the deputy director and chief human resources officer, deputy director and chief commercial officer, deputy director and chief operating officer, and the operations and events manager, Mr. Woods said.

Mr. Reid, who was suspended in May following a decision of the Port Authority board, has previously denied any hiring infractions within the Public Authorities Law.

Aside from the situation involving Mr. Reid and the four terminated senior staffers, the port was also forced to sort out complaints of sexual harassment made by nine female employees at the authority against a senior male member of staff. That member of staff has not been identified by the Cayman Compass, but the newspaper has confirmed that the complaints were not made against Mr. Reid.

Despite the harassment claims being unsubstantiated, the government’s Internal Audit Unit noted there were some systemic behavioral and management problems at the port. “The review … yielded a subset of legitimate behavioral issues which need to be addressed,” the report stated. It did not identify those behaviors.

The audit review found an “unhealthy” working environment where lower level employees were reluctant to bring issues to management or simply did not know whom to approach with a complaint.

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