The Arawak Cement Company has suspended its planned breathalyser testing of all 100 employees that was set to start next Friday.
The company was also expected to begin random testing today.
But the implementation of the testing programme has been put on hold, pending the outcome of talks between the company and the workers’ bargaining agent, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU).
BWU Deputy General Secretary Dwaine Paul is contending that testing cannot begin until a number of concerns are settled to the union’s satisfaction.
Paul told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the union was not properly informed about the initiative.
He said: “We were finally notified. Unfortunately, we were notified after the company had sort of implemented it. We subsequently received a letter and had a meeting on the subject of the breathalyser; and at this stage, we are to have further discussions on it. But at this stage, our members are not going to be participating in such an exercise.”
He said he did not expect the company to go forward with the testing during negotiations.
The BWU met yesterday with management of the cement company and the date for a follow-up meeting was currently being worked on, he said.
Paul said: “We are not going ahead with [drug testing]. The union members are not participating in it. There are a number of unanswered questions that need to be dealt with. Obviously the process was not adhered to as far as how things are normally done; and this is an issue.”
Paul emphasised that while both sides have managed to work past that issue, the implementation of the testing “is a no-go for our members”.
He also disclosed that the company had agreed to furnish the union with certain information regarding the drug testing.
The union executive continued: “They were supposed to start this morning (random testing); and up to this morning I have received no report that there is a challenge with the position that we took going forward.”
Paul also pointed out that the breathalyser testing was not even ready for implementation at the national level.
“We have difficulty with the whole thing,” Paul said. “The parties are going to have discussions on it…. We can’t have discussions on it while it is being done. So our position is that we can’t participate.”
The testing was to be conducted by a private security firm, but the BWU deputy general secretary said he is concerned that security guards are being exploited as all types of responsibilities are being added to their plate.
In addition to the new role these guards are being required to carry out, Paul told Barbados TODAY that this same security firm has outstanding pay issues to be resolved with the union.
Paul continued: “I have a significant problem with security guards in Barbados being exploited by their employers. There is no discussion with the workers or the workers’ representative in terms of how all of these additional duties will be compensated… how they impact on the actual workers or anything like that.”
He said he would be reaching out to the security guards shortly when he meets with them to send a message to employers that “enough is enough”.
When contacted this afternoon, new General Manager of the Arawak Cement Company Yago Castro confirmed to Barbados TODAY that the testing had been put on hold pending the outcome of talks with the BWU.
Castro said: “[BWU] raised a number of things which they want us to clarify. We prefer to take it easy even though we think it’s a good thing [the testing]. We are going to take some more time to give some more feedback to the union so that everybody is comfortable.”