The 140 workers employed at United Commercial Autoworks Ltd (UCAL) are scheduled to go on the picket line tomorrow in protest of the non-payment of salaries following reports today that several of them had already downed tools and were enjoying games of dominoes.
Barbados TODAY has been reliably informed that monthly paid workers employed at UCAL did not receive their salaries on Friday, while weekly paid workers were unlikely to receive their wages tomorrow because of a lack of funds.
When a team from Barbados TODAY visited the Weymouth, St Michael headquarters today, UCAL workers openly complained that even though the Transport Board owes millions to UCAL they could not receive their salaries and wages.
One irate UCAL worker, who asked not to be identified, said: “When UCAL was established in 1997 by the Owen Arthur administration I bought 5,000 shares in the company, but I am yet to receive a dividend after 16 years. Under these circumstances my shares do not have any value.”
An equally irate worker who claimed that he invested $6,000 when the company was established, shared a similar experience having failed to receive any dividends over the past 16 years.
Other workers also claimed they made investments in the company because they had accepted the arguments presented by the former Barbados Labour Party Government, which had sought to empower the workers.
When asked if the workers’ bargaining agency, the Barbados Workers Union had sanctioned any industrial action, the workers said that the union had expressed solidarity with them.
Efforts to reach BWU officials for comment were unsuccessful. However, a source told Barbados TODAY that a majority of the workers had expressed an interest in accessing their severance pay because they did not see a bright future for the company.
Highlighting the insolvency of the company, a worker told Barbados TODAY that they had been promised a ten per cent back-pay since 2007, but they were yet to receive that payment.
When contacted today, general manager of UCAL, Frederick Gittens, said: “I prefer not to comment. I have no idea of any pending industrial action by UCAL workers tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, when asked to comment on the outstanding funds owed to UCAL, general manager of Transport Board, Sandra Forde, said: “I cannot speak to that at this time.”
Recently the cash-strapped Transport Board laid off over 100 employees in an attempt to reduce overhead costs and reduce its dependence on transfers to that statutory board.
There have been reports that the layoff of a large number of drivers had impacted the servicing of several routes across the country.
Communications specialist with the Transport Board, Lynda Holder, told this newspaper this evening that the matter of the payment of moneys would be addressed at the ministerial level.