Close to 100 workers at Rotherley Construction downed tools Monday morning, in protest against changes to their terms of work.
The unionized workers, who are represented by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), gathered outside the company’s Warrens, St Michael headquarters around 9 a.m. demanding immediate clarification of the terms set out in their new employment contracts.
At issue are new minimum work standards and volumes attached to the daily rate of pay.
One official, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity, gave the example of a mason working for $120 per day. He explained that under the amended contracts, that worker would be required to lay a minimum number of blocks or to pour a certain amount of concrete per day.
However, the new specifications are not sitting well with the majority of the workers, who said they were advised by their union during a meeting last Friday not to sign any new employment documents, as they could eventually prove to be disadvantageous to the workers.
“When we join this firm, they gave [us] a contract to sign. We already sign a contract, now they bring out another contract,” an upset Phillip Mohamed told reporters Monday.
The labourer, who is among an estimated 60 per cent of employees who are refusing to sign the new contract, also raised concern that his duties were not adequately reflected in the new job specifications.
“I does do scaffolding and it [the contract] don’t mention nothing about scaffolding. They don’t mention anything about height . . . what they paying you or whatever,” he said, while insisting that “you have to know what you working for. You can’t just sign something like that.”
BWU shop steward Matthew Gill also confirmed that the new employment contract was at the heart of Monday’s protest.
However, he was much more guarded than Mohamed in his comments to reporters.
“It’s a little bit of a contentious issue. The workers are having some problem with it [the new contract] so that is what we are dealing with now,” he said, ahead of a meeting that was scheduled for 11 a.m. between the workers’ representatives and management.
Those talks, which took place at the BWU’s Solidarity House headquarters, lasted about two-and-a-half hours and proved inconclusive with the strong likelihood that the workers would remain off the job for the second straight day Tuesday.
However, up to the time of publication BWU’s Assistant General Secretary Orlando Gabby Scott could not be reached for comment, while CEO of Rotherley Allan Evelyn would only say through his secretary that as far as he was concerned there was no issue to speak of, adding that staff were invited to a meeting Monday morning.