The dispute between the Jada Group of Companies and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) is to be referred to the General Secretary Toni Moore and the union’s Executive Council for swift determination.
The union’s Deputy General Secretary Dwaine Paul made this announcement to reporters tonight shortly after emerging from a two-hour meeting at the BWU’s Solidarity House headquarters with over 60 Jada employees.
Paul said that during the meeting the workers provided written communication and other evidence to show that the company had reduced their pay and that what had been touted as an incentive by the management of Infra Equipment Rentals, a subsidiary of the Jada construction group, was really a disincentive for them.
Accusing the company of both exploiting and treating the workers unfairly, the Deputy General Secretary said there was a clear change of in the payment terms without the agreement of the workers.
As a result of the unilateral action, he said the Infra workers were put at a serious disadvantage by the company, which he said had forced some workers into accepting the arrangement by threatening them with lay offs.
However, those Infra workers who did not give in to the company’s demand that they sign on to the new compensation scheme were sent home and given papers to take to the National Insurance Office, while the company reportedly engaged a new set of workers the next morning under a new contract for Bjerkhamn Associates, which also falls under the Jada Group.
Paul charged that the new hires were now working for $6 per hour instead of $12 per hour, and earning as little as $4 per trip under the so-called “incentive scheme”.
“What the company has done is really and truly once again within the group seek to cut the wages of workers and we believe this is being done to gain unfair competitive advantage within the market, because the company is bidding for contracts, they are winning contracts, but at the same time their workers’ compensation packages are being attacked at every level,” the BWU spokesman said.
Asked what the union’s response would be, Paul said the BWU would do everything within its power to defend the rights of the workers within the group.
“We believe that the workers are being exploited, we believe that the workers are being treated unfairly and enough is really enough. Jada cannot continue to make huge profits, control the construction market in Barbados and then turn around and take bread out of the workers’ mouths,” he told reporters.
“We cannot have a situation like that in Barbados. This is tragic,” he added.
The union spokesman said the matter would be given priority by the BWU, adding that the union never thought that labour standards in Barbados would ever reach such a low.
It was back in June when the union first raised concern about the employment practices at Infra after it was alerted by workers of a letter dated June 1, 2016, which was signed by Infra’s Human Resources Partner Paul Lewis.
That letter said: “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.