The workers of the Arawak Cement Company Limited in St Lucy – about 100 in all – will have to subject themselves to breathalyser testing on arrival at work from Monday, March 22, according to an internal memo obtained by Barbados TODAY.
But before that, the company is to begin carrying out random testing, the workers were told.
In the memo dated today, new general manager Yago Castro said those workers who fail the test are to be barred from entering the compound.
A source at the company familiar with the decision told Barbados TODAY that the testing was scheduled to be implemented today against a workers’ protest. But following a last-minute meeting with management it was agreed to reschedule the date and involve the Barbados Workers Union (BWU).
As a result, the protest was also called off for the time being.
While not mentioning the protest, the memo confirmed that a meeting was held on Wednesday, March 6 to inform the staff that the testing would begin today, but that it has been rescheduled.
But the source claimed that up to late this afternoon, the union had not been informed.
In explaining the procedure, the memo explained that the tests are to be administered using a hand-held breathalyser and employees entering the facility will be required to blow into the device as directed by security guards.
The circular went on to say: “A negative result verified by the appearance of a green light on the device means that the employee will be admitted on the compound. This means he or she has an acceptable blood alcohol concentration of below 0.08 per cent.
“Employees who have a positive result indicated by a red light, will not be admitted on the compound, as their blood alcohol concentration would have exceeded 0.08 per cent at the time of the test.”
Turning specifically to the implications for testing positive, the circular stated that once an employee is tested positive and is subsequently prohibited from entering the compound, the security officer will submit a report to the firm’s Health and Safety Coordinator (HSC).
It noted that the HSC would then send a report to the employee’s supervisor and copy the Employee Relations Officer and Human Relations Manager.
“Each time an employee is not permitted on the compound, the company will record it as an uncertified sick leave/casual leave day. The employee will be expected to return to work at the beginning of his or her next scheduled work day,” the Arawak Cement Company staff were told.
Upon returning to work, the memo added, the Supervisor will be required to hold discussions with the worker and record that meeting on a special discussion form.
“If the employee exceeds three positive results in one month or uses all of his or her uncertified sick days due to positive results, he or she will be scheduled to meet with the Human Resources Manager who will decide on the next step,” it read.
The circular said such steps could include an internally-designed programme set up for the employee to monitor his or her progress; drug treatment and counselling through the company’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or progressive discipline.
“The three occurrences in one month may be adjusted due to evidence or trends suggesting abuse of this restriction,” the memo said.
The document noted that even though treatment or counseling was not mandatory, it is considered a step that the company was taking to assist the employee to bring him or her in line with its policy.
“If the employee refuses the efforts made to assist him or her, the company may need to resort directly to the company’s progressive disciplinary progress,” it warned.
When contacted tonight, General Manager Yago Castro confirmed to Barbados TODAY that the breathalyser testing was in fact being implemented with one purpose in mind.
“Our first priority is for the health and safety of our people,” Castro said. “That is the only purpose. That is why we are investing heavily in the plant . . . last month and last year . . . . You can come and see the improvement in the equipment and the facility; that is the most important thing for us is to keep our people safe.
The company has invested over $2 million dollars in the last two years, he said.
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