Work woes

by Shawn Cumberbatch

closingdownA number of companies are closing their doors for good, while wage and salary increases have become a virtual no-no for those still operating.

And even those companies able to offer their workers more pay are negotiating no more than five per cent increases in any one year, information from the Barbados Employers Confederation has revealed.

In a review of the island’s industrial relations climate last year and the state of collective bargaining, the employers union said “unsustainability” forced six of its members to close in 2012, “causing several persons to lose their jobs”.

Then there was the fact that the days of double digit salary increases in the private sector were over — at least for the time being.

“Two thousand and twelve continued to be another difficult year for businesses in Barbados as well as the wider world. Global economies continued to worsen, putting added pressure on the local economy. Additionally, several local businesses continued their struggle to simply break even, and felt the pressures of reduced spending from consumers, both individuals and businesses,” the BEC said.

“During the year, 15 collective agreements were concluded and wage settlements for some organisations contained no increases for some part of the agreement period, with the maximum increase being five per cent.”

Those entities completing collective bargaining agreements with increased pay for their workers included Barbados Bottling Company (seven per cent over two years retroactive to April 1, 2011), Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (three per cent over three years retroactive to December 15, 2009), Bayview Hospital (six per cent over two years effective April 1, 2012), Berger Paints (7.5 per cent over three years retroactive to July 1, 2009), Carlisle Laboratories (8.5 per cent over three years effective July 1, 2012), Caribbean Confectionary (August 1, 2012 2.2 per cent lump sump plus 2.5 per cent in the second year), City of Bridgetown Cooperative Credit Union (six per cent two-year agreement effective July 1, 2011).

Agreements were also completed for Codrington Trust at five per cent over two years), Coles Printery (six per cent for two years), Collins Limited signed a two-year agreement of 8.5 per cent), Crown Packaging (six per cent over three years), DHL (Barbados) Limited (five per cent over two years coupled with a merits system), Moore Paragon (8.5 per cent over two years), Purity Bakeries (7.5 per cent over three years retroactive to April 27, 2011) and Mouth Gay Rum Refinery (six per cent over two years).

The BEC said prospects for this year were cloudy and uncertain based on happenings in external markets Barbados depended on, but did not anticipate any significant turnaround.

It urged Government to focus on youth employment, development of focused programmes for the sustainable development of the micro, small and medium sized business sectors, challenges with the implementation of the EPA, the “moribund” nature of CARICOM, the intensification of the process of meaningful tripartite social dialogue and more collaborative problem solving of the economic and fiscal challenges facing the economy.

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