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Deadline looms

by Emmanuel Joseph
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BICO says mobile salespersons have until month end to sign new contracts

BICO has terminated the current contracts of all its mobile ice cream salespersons, accusing them of breaching agreements with the company.

Executive Chairman Edwin Thirlwell announced on Friday that the independent operators now have until the end of this month to decide if they will accept new contracts.

The decision seemed to catch the contractors off guard, coming on the heels of a settlement with the ice cream manufacturer on new plug-in electricity charges, which had resulted in the salespersons agreeing to resume work after several weeks of strike action.

Spokesman for the independent contractors, David McClean said his colleagues will reassess their working relationship with BICO by May 31.

“They were all in breach,” Thirlwell told Barbados TODAY when asked about the contracts, although not specifying what breaches had occurred. “The trouble is with the old contract, everyone was looking backwards and now we say we will have to look forward and revert to what we had in the first place because the present system is not fit for purpose.”

“We will have to make a few changes to make it up-to-date. There is an extension to the end of May to sort out your bits and pieces, and that’s all there is to do, really,” the BICO boss added.

But McClean expressed dismay that the contracts were scrapped “in the middle of negotiations” about the new plug-in fees which BICO wants salespersons to pay for using electricity in their vans that carry freezers for the ice cream.

“You are going through a situation where you are dealing with a little crisis…. You are in negotiations and BICO cancels everybody’s contract. I still don’t understand it…and saying there is a grace period until the 31st of May…. I don’t know how they are working out that; that seems like something a lawyer would have to explain to me,” he said.

“They want to come and bring new contracts…. I ain’t want any. They could bring whatever new contract they want.”

Asked what the other contractors would do, McClean replied: “I am not sure what the other guys said. They are going to work currently…. They will work and then we will have to assess our options going forward because I know that in everything, in the end, there is victimisation.”

In its dispute with BICO, the contractors had been demanding a review of the new charges, questioning how management had arrived at the rates charged for the electricity used by the vans. They had also objected to the company contracting TMR Sales and Service to determine the electricity usage, saying that the Barbados Light and Power Company should be one doing that, as the only entity authorised to sell electricity in the country.

However, McClean said the readings done by TMR were “more or less in line with what our contractors had done”.

“But the problem was the actual calculations in working out the price of the energy bill…. They wanted us to pay at 58 cents per kilowatt hour. So we got to find out throughout this whole process that it was actually 45 cents per kilowatt hour. Suffice it to say, I believe there should still be some sort of sharing of that rate. BICO is still adamant that we have to bear all the costs. The guys have decided they would go with it.”

With respect to settlement on that issue, Thirlwell said it recognised that the readings put out in the first place were correct and the rate charged was a straight pass-through with no margin of profit for BICO.

“So it was an outbreak of commonsense in the end. That’s all I can say,” the BICO boss said.

McClean noted that the cost was higher for vans with double freezers and contractors with those were to consider using just one freezer.

“So, that is one of the options that the guys are looking at,” he said. “But for now, we will go back to work. Some of the guys were out this morning…. and the others will be back out from tomorrow.”

McClean said that also under consideration was the proposal that meters be installed to provide consistent, true readings of electricity usage.

“During this time frame of between now and the end of May, the meters is something we could look at also…. If we have the meter, the guys would know exactly what their readings are; they wouldn’t have to wait on anybody to tell them,” he explained.

The spokesman added that he was still waiting to hear from the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) on the ice cream salespersons’ request for the utility regulator to settle the contract issue for them and provide clarity on the sale of electricity.

emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb ]]>

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