by Emmanuel Joseph
A top executive of one of this country’s leading construction companies is proposing a major lobby against a portion of the new Employment Rights Act, which he says has put the sector in a “very” difficult position.
Paul Lewis, a director of the Jada Group of Companies, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, the provision requiring companies to give workers six weeks notification of layoffs, was inappropriate for the construction industry in particular.
“In my personal and professional opinion, I consider this part of the act to be inappropriate for the construction industry. No construction company can forecast layoffs six weeks ahead; the most is a week to 10 days we may be in a position to know the various categories of workers who may be laid off,” Lewis asserted.
“This periodic requirement has placed the industry in a difficult position to uphold the new act. It makes a mockery of the whole thing.”
Lewis said he was considering speaking to General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Sir Roy Trotman, with a view to having a big lobby for the Government to remove that provision of the Employment Rights Act.
He also informed this newspaper, that Jada had just written to the Chief Labour Officer, Vincent Burnett, and Sir Roy, informing them the firm may be facing layoffs later this year. Lewis explained that while there were no plans for any mass layoffs, the company was simply adhering to the legislation.
“We have no plans to lay off workers en mass. Apart from one or two labourers, there are no plans to layoff workers. Despite the economic downturn, we have been able to keep our employees for the past four years. We employ about 540 full-time workers and another 500 sub-contracting workers,” the building business leader pointed out.
While admitting though, that a slow down in business was expected, he said Jada had been “going out” and “creating” its own jobs, rather than waiting for them to come their way. Lewis argued that if the company did not create its own projects, it would certainly have to layoff workers.
He also disclosed that a new construction arm of the Group was expected to come on stream in a matter of weeks.
“We are making our own cement now. We are trying to make sure it is the right quality and will soon be rolling out the concrete plant … within weeks,” added Lewis.
He noted that the new Cemex Company was part of Best Mining Inc., which fell under the Jada Group. Lewis also dismissed as a rumour, reports that Jada had bid to buy out competitor Rayside Construction Company, in whole or in part.
Meanwhile, BWU General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman told Barbados TODAY, he was not willing to say whether or if he supported the suggestion by Lewis of lobbying the Government to change that aspect of the Employment Rights Act requiring six weeks notice of layoffs.
“The construction industry had requested an interpretation of that clause as to whether notice related to a permanent system or where a company from time to time had to layoff persons when a job was finished, and then they returned,” stated Sir Roy.
“I have been in contact with the Attorney-General’s Office and the Ministry of Labour and have even had discussions with Jada on the matter.”
The veteran trade union leader explained that it was not the intention of the act to impose on the employer or the employee any system that was not consistent with the Social Partnership’s Protocol. “If Mr. Lewis wants to meet with me I am willing to do so,” assured Sir Roy. emmanueljoseph@ barbadostoday.bb