Less than four months after being accused of trampling on the rights of its employees, a popular security firm is being charged with using underhanded policies that would deny workers the full benefit of a new minimum wage.
President of the G4S Secure Solutions division of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Ormond Mayers on Thursday accused management of significantly slashing working hours to as little as 24 hours a week. As a result, he contended that workers, some of whom have over 20 years of service are now going home with as little as $200 per week at $8.79 an hour.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY on Thursday, Mayers argued that the “unstable” working environment represents a sharp deviation from an agreement reached when Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister of Labour and Social Relations Colin Jordan chaired talks between G4S and the BWU late last year. Based on the agreement, workers’ hours could not be reduced to less than 40 per week.
The complaints are strikingly similar to those raised by BWU General Secretary Toni Moore on the floor of Parliament this week when she drew attention to an unnamed security firm employing “back door” tactics to reduce wages ahead of the new policy. In fact, she added the security firm is attempting to alter the workers’ contracts and reduce their shifts, which currently cover a 12-hour day.
While the unstable hours have been a bone of contention in the past, officials say in recent weeks it has become “worse than ever”.
As a result, workers are concerned that when a $9.25/hour minimum wage takes effect next week, they could end up taking home under $230 weekly when as full-time workers, the law intends for them to be paid between $370 and $555.
“Even if you implement a minimum wage and you keep cutting people’s hours, they are still at a loss. This issue of unstable hours is a very serious issue that we are having at G4S and even with a minimum wage we still will be at a disadvantage if this continues,” Mayers told Barbados TODAY.
“Some people are now getting two and three days. That is how bad it has gotten because even on 12-hour shifts that is just [$316/week] and you can see that that person will be at a disadvantage. And it doesn’t matter how long these people were in the company,” he added.
Efforts to reach the company’s human resources officer were unsuccessful, but workers were apparently told that the shortened working hours are the result of the COVID-19 situation.
But the union leader argued that more staff is still being brought on. Adding insult to injury is the fact that inquiries with supervisors about the unstable work arrangements have so far been reportedly met with disrespect.
“When a supervisor could tell a worker to tell me the president of the division to find the rest of hours for him, and I complain to management and request a meeting to deal with the supervisor’s behaviour, you can understand how bad it is getting,” the shop steward explained
“How can a man who was been working for 26 years be reduced to three work days?” he asked.
In early December last year, scores of employees protested G4S’ refusal to submit a wage proposal as the BWU demanded fair compensation for security staff at the company.
Coming out of the December impasse with G4S, was confirmation of the impending national minimum wage from Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
But while the administration has moved ahead on minimum wage discussions, talks on G4S matters that were slated to resume in early February have not yet begun.
Repeated efforts to reach Minister Jordan were unsuccessful.
Head of the G4S division said the next steps are entirely up to the workers.
“We would prefer to work 40 hours like everybody else but currently you can’t do that even with $9.25. They’ve done nothing for us. They have done nothing for G4S staff whose sacrifices have caused this minimum wage thing to come about,” Mayers lamented. ([email protected])