The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has accused employers of “intimidating” workers into taking pay cuts in a bid to control spending owing to lost business days from the COVID-19 shutdown.
Speaking on the union’s weekend radio broadcast, Dwaine Paul, Director of Organisation and Industrial Relations, declared: “There appears to be a prescription for businesses, which seems to have been handed down by someone, where we are seeing several companies cutting their employees’ pay, ranging from five per cent to as much as 50 per cent, as though there is no law and workers have no rights, and this is happening to both unionised and non-unionised workers.
“The cutting of wages and salaries is not legal unless there is a firm agreement from the workers that they will participate in it. Employees should not be forced, intimidated or otherwise coerced into accepting these pay cuts; if they give up a portion of their wages it should be done on a voluntary basis with the understanding that it is a temporary arrangement, but from the information we are gathering, this seems not to be the case.”
Paul said it appeared that businesses are coming up with “survival plans” and then calling their workers to staff meetings and telling them they either had to accept pay cuts or go home. He charged that some law firms and pharmaceutical companies have told their workers they would be taking home 30 to 50 per cent lower wages, while construction firms had foremen going around “intimidating” workers to take five to ten per cent pay cuts.
Paul advised workers that they did not have to agree to those terms and to voice their concerns with the union and the Labour Department. He called on the government watchdog to police violations of the Protection of Wages Act.
The union representative added: “While companies may argue that they are cutting salaries to keep staff on board, staff members are still being sent home despite this. And no company has yet said they have had to seek loans or other forms of investment to stay afloat but have instead chosen to go to the “low hanging fruit”, namely the workers.
“Another problem is these funds are not repayable, and workers have not been given any timeline regarding how long they will last; for all we know, the reduced salaries may become permanent if the company claims it hasn’t been able to ‘catch itself’.
“We are asking any companies who may feel they are in jeopardy right now to consult with the unions and the Labour Department.
“File an application with the Labour Department to show that you have done all you can do to shore up your resources at this time because ideally, pay cuts should be a last resort, not something you do just for the sake of it.”
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