Over a dozen workers have reportedly been sent home by Infra Equipment Rentals Limited, a member of the Jada Group, which is involved in the construction industry.
An upset Deputy General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Dwaine Paul met with some of the displaced employees tonight at the union’s Solidarity House headquarters.
Afterwards, he told Barbados TODAY the BWU was very troubled over the decision, which he said had no real basis in law. The union is therefore seeking an urgent meeting with management in its bid to avert a possible industrial strike against the company and to have the matter settled amicably.
Paul explained that the workers, who are all truck drivers, were laid off because they refused to participate in an “incentive scheme” in which they first had to agree to a half pay cut. In addition to not having the scheme spelt out in writing, he said the workers were offered no guarantees that they could recoup the lost pay.
However, in a letter dated June 1, 2016, which was signed by Human Resources Partner Paul Lewis, Infra Equipment Rentals told the affected workers: “This serves to confirm your pending layoff occasioned by your continued refusal to participate in an initiative wherein a four week trial of the company’s incentive scheme for its drivers is being proposed.”
The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY, says the workers had been invited to, and attended no fewer than three recent meetings where the details of the proposed scheme were presented and discussed.
The letter states that during the first meeting on May 7, all drivers acknowledged the potential benefits to themselves and the company, and agreed to participate in the four week trial.
“It was in fact also agreed at that first meeting and repeated during our subsequent meetings that, should the trial period not prove successful to both parties, then it would be scrapped and the present payment arrangement re-engaged,” the letter noted.
The correspondence also reminds the employees that they had continued to refuse participation despite management’s repeated coaxing and assurances of transparency and guarantee of continued employment without prejudice.
“It is worthy of mention that during the aforementioned presentations, it was demonstrated that you have the potential to earn substantially more pay than on the current non-incentivized pay scheme and thus such incentive scheme was deemed mutually beneficial as would also address the current lack of productivity inherent in the current arrangement,” adds the company.
“Having however refused repeatedly and much to our dismay and disappointment, despite our very best efforts at explaining to you the potential benefits to all and without prejudice as mentioned previously, the company has now no alternative but to send you on a short layoff [four weeks] as all our trucks will be required to be engaged and working to full capacity if the scheme is to have any chance of succeeding.”
The company however assures the employes in its letter of continued employment upon their return, at which time a further meeting would be held to review the results of the scheme and a determination made to either fully embrace it or abandon it.
“Should it be successful, then you would be given priority to continue with the company in accordance [with] such new terms and conditions of employment or should you still refuse participation, then other arrangements will have to be considered,” the letter adds.
However, the BWU’s deputy general secretary said that based on his initial examination of the information, the union was concerned that the layoffs appeared to be illegitimate.
“What we have seen from the information presented to us, and conversations we have had with some of the workers, it appears that the workers have been targeted by the company for not agreeing to a company-designed ‘incentive scheme’.”
The union official highlighted the fact that the workers’ basic wage was being cut by more than half under the so-called incentive scheme, without any details provided of exactly how the workers would recover the lost monies.
Paul said the union was therefore baffled over “what kind of incentive that could be to have more than half of their pay removed unilaterally because they did not agree to it”.
He also noted that the layoffs were not based on a lack of work or reduced capacity since “other workers are scheduled to take the affected drivers’ place tomorrow.
“So we don’t have a situation where there is reduced capacity within the company, but we have a situation where the guys are being bullied into accepting a cut in their basic pay, to take part in a scheme that provides them with no guarantees,” the BWU leader lamented.