Workers at one of the country’s biggest names in road construction have downed their tools indefinitely demanding a salary increase after eight years of holding strain.
Longstanding workers at the C.O. Williams Construction Company whose motto boasts We move the earth to please say they have given enough of their blood, sweat and tears to an employer who, in their opinion, does not have their best interests at heart.
After two sickouts on Wednesday and Thursday last week, workers publicly displayed their anger as they blanketed the company’s front lawn at Lears St Thomas in a move that could cost the construction firm hundreds of thousands of dollars if allowed to drag on.
But management appears to be up to the challenge. Though efforts to reach General Manager Neil Weekes or founder Sir Charles Williams have been unsuccessful, workers said they have been continuously denied an increase on the basis that the company was not performing well enough to facilitate their requests.
Officials from the Barbados Workers’ Union were on hand to speak with workers during the morning period, but said they could not speak with the press as they awaited word from Deputy General Secretary Dwaine Paul.
However a workers’ representative with knowledge of the situation explained: “Management is claiming that it cannot afford.. but the optics that we are seeing with managers who are getting bonuses, new management vehicles and all types of things indicates that it isn’t the case.”
The official told Barbados TODAY that union officials have started their negotiations for an increase at 15 per cent, a figure which management has countered with a proposal of their own.
Workers who did not want to be identified said that over the last 18 months, the company had seen a massive resurgence in business contracts, particularly in the asphalt division. According to them, these projects require them to work both day and night as well as on weekends and public holidays.
Some of these include a massive construction project at Boarded Hall in St George along with road repairs at Wildey, Two-Mile/Government Hill, St Thomas Parish Church to Holetown and from Lancaster to Mile and a Quarter in the north of the island.
“You have people working everyday, day and night on weekends and bank holidays and you are telling me I can’t get a raise?” one employee asked.
“We held strain under the previous government, but right now we are out here doing good work. We give this company top-class work all of the time and they cannot deny that. But I have seen the price of sand and asphalt which we produce going up, people in management positions are getting big bonuses… the price of everything has increased except our pay,” the upset worker stressed.
The division currently on strike consists of approximately 300 workers and just over half participated in Monday’s industrial action. Barbados understands the union has not ruled out the possibility of calling out other companies within the C.O. Williams group.