$144,000 a day!
That is what Barbados Agricultural Management Company general manager Leslie Parris told Barbados TODAY the sugar industry would be losing as a result of strike action, which started this morning at Portvale, St James, the only factory operating for this year’s sugar crop.
Responding to the work stoppage called by the Barbados Workers’ Union, the BAMC boss expressed “serious” concern about the impact which the strike would have on earnings for workers and the wider industry if the 160 Portvale emloyees remained off the job tomorrow. Parris fears the strike would put the sugar sector and economy at risk.
“So far, the crop has been going very well and the independent sugar farmers, along with the BAMC, have been delivering an average of 2,400 tonnes of sugar cane per day to Portvale.
“Shutting down the crop at this time, would therefore impact on the industry’s cash flow to the extent of approximately $144,000 per day,” he warned.
“Moreover, given that the Easter break is coming up, we would have received cane up to Wednesday afternoon this week. If we do not get back into operation in the factory tomorrow, it could later result in an extended break in production until after Easter,” he added.
“This would mean significant losses to sugar workers, the farming community and the haulage contractors engaged in the crop,” Parris pointed out.
He suggested that while the company “fully” respected the union’s right to strike, it came at an inopportune time for the industry.
He said the BAMC was ready and willing to return to the bargaining table with the BWU.
“In every comment I have made so far, I have always indicated that the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Limited is always open to discussion with the union; we have never shut the door.”
However, Parris could not say how soon management and the BWU would get back to the negotiation table.
“I cannot tell [you] that at this moment, in that I have not spoken to the union subsequent to the strike action this morning, but I expect that the parties would be in communication shortly,” the sugar sector head said.
“The Barbados Workers’ Union this morning, verbally advised management at Portvale that it had called out workers at the factory on strike. To date we have received no written notification from the BWU of this strike and the reasons for this action,” stated Parris.
“However, news reports quote the general secretary Sir Roy Trotman as accusing the BAMC of terminating the Andrews Factory staff in the middle of negotiations for enhanced severance packages and other issues.
“The company would like to point out that workers were made redundant because of the cessation of operations at the Andrews Factory at the end of 2013 crop,” he said.
“Our current negotiations have therefore been going on for approximately ten months with the Barbados Workers Union.
We have advised the union that the company is not in a position to offer enhanced packages, but that all the affected workers would receive redundancy payment in accordance with legislation,” stated Parris.
“In addition to that, the company has offered employees extended access to employee assistance programmes. The BWU has also demanded information on the opportunity for its members within the proposed multi-purpose factory [to replace Andrews].
“The BAMC has consistently informed the BWU that such information would be provided in the future by the Barbados Cane Industry Corporation,” he said.
Parris explained that the corporation was the entity responsible for the design, construction and commissioning of the factory.