Angry that they are being asked to work on Independence Day, employees at offshore companies here are accusing the Department of Labour of ignoring “injustices” at these companies.
In an unsigned letter dated November 11, sent anonymously to the Chief Labour Officer, the workers expressed displeasure with “the representation they do not receive from the state run Labour Department”. The letter had as its subject, Offshore Companies Robbing Barbadian Employees of their Pride and Industry.
In the letter, a copy of which was emailed to Barbados TODAY from an address seemingly set up specifically for this purpose – the name assigned to the address is Barbados Offshore Employees and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org – the disgruntled employees were scathing in their condemnation of their employers’ treatment of workers, and complained that previous cries for help had been ignored.
“This is not the first attempt to address injustices met (sic) out to us. Despite the numerous appeals made towards the standardization of the labour rules and rights afforded by law in this country we are still treated unfairly as employees working in the Harbour Industrial Estate,” the letter said.
Attributing the reason for anonymity to fear of victimization “which most likely would end in job loss”, the authors singled out KM2 Solutions, a business outsourcing services firm which specializes in media, finance, technology and telecommunications, as one of the biggest culprits.
“This company has an ideal of forcing employees to work on Barbadian public holidays . . . . Noteworthy, employees have been suffering many ills with regards to the company’s adherence to local labour regulations including deviation of the rate of pay legally afforded to them while attending work on these ‘public holidays’ in question.”
Reference was made to the recent national shutdown during what was then Tropical Storm Matthew, with the workers charging that a company executive had mandated that employees “ready themselves to attend work by certain times”.
“It is irrefutable that other areas of workplace injustice imposed on us which include but are not limited to the number of hours we work in a week, including our lunch hour, are in clear conflict of the Barbados Shops Act.
“Yet, no one seems to care about our rights no matter how we channel our complaints and plead for representation,” the letter said.
Told that they must work on Independence Day, November 30, the angry employees said they have had enough, leading to their written outburst.
“Shamefully, we are facing these challenges as the country is diving into its 50th Anniversary of Independence on November 30th. We are sure the festivities will draw out thousands of Barbadians. On the other hand, there will be small and seemingly insignificant exclusion – employees who are being forced to attend work on that public holiday,” they wrote.
However, Chief Executive Officer and President of the KM2 Solutions David Kreiss dismissed the complaints, telling Barbados TODAY the company’s policy on public holidays is made clear during the hiring process,
“As an outsourcing company we have to abide by the schedule provided by our clients, the US companies, who are open for business, who have customers calling and ordering goods and services or looking for customer service and help with their bills and questions they may have,” Kreiss explained.
“During orientation we not only go over the schedules that the agents will follow, we also go through the list of holidays that the clients need us to work and because of that we pay time and a half and double time,” he added, insisting that it was up to the workers to decline the job if they did not want to work on local holidays.
He added that the company would hold in-house celebrations to mark the island’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
Meantime, Chief Labour Officer Victor Felix told Barbados TODAY this afternoon the department had not received the complaint letter, which appeared to have been sent to the department via email at 1:57 p.m. yesterday.
Nonetheless, Felix explained that “where workers are required to work on a holiday or any day that they should get premium pay for. It is up to the contract between the employer and the employee to decide how the worker is paid for that day”.
Still, he said he supported KM2 Solutions paying double for holidays.
The new Shops Act, passed in the House of Assembly a year ago in support of Government’s plans to transform the island into a 24-hour society, removes general public holidays from the list of closed days, with the exception of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Independence Day and Christmas Day.
Up to May this year concerns were raised about an absence of clarity on the categories of workers and industries included under the Shops Act and how payments for holidays should be administered. There were also issues relating to shift workers, transportation and security of workers after certain hours.