A PROMINENT commentator and cafe owner has been criticised by Unite the Union over a dispute with former employees regarding unpaid wages.
Businesswoman Barbara Whearty is the owner of Cafe Cuan in Belfast city centre and regularly appears on BBC Radio Ulster.
She is currently involved in a dispute with several former employees concerning thousands of pounds of allegedly unpaid wages.
Despite the battle, Mrs Whearty was able to expand her business by opening Arden's "gastro cafe" in Whitehead, Co Antrim.
Her husband John Paul Whearty works alongside her.
Following the announcement of the expansion, a spokesman for Unite the Union said: "Unite is supporting our members who were employed by Cuan Catering Limited in recovering money owed to them.
"The expansion jars with former employees who had been seeking payment of money owed for months.
"This dispute can be quickly resolved by the company with a full and final settlement to all workers owed money."
Mrs Whearty said she wanted to get the situation resolved.
"We have never disputed the monies owed. We had been in communication with our former colleagues and were working tirelessly to make up the shortfall when Covid hit," she added.
"In the absence of financial assistance from Stormont or Westminster and the dramatic reduction in our business from pre-Covid levels, we faced the very real prospect of closing down and making our team of eight redundant, as well as being unable to meet our obligations to former colleagues.
"Instead, thanks to the kindness of our family, we were able to borrow a small sum of money in order to secure our business and the jobs of our furloughed team through expansion.
"At a time where so many hospitality jobs have been lost, we hope that Unite will engage with us to through the formal processes expected of a trade union to resolve this matter.
"I wholeheartedly apologise to my former colleagues for not being in a position to rectify this in a more timely fashion."