THREE-DAY strike ends in comfort for workers
Striking United Commercial Autoworks Ltd (UCAL) workers were back on the job after receiving their wages and salaries, as promised, by 5 p.m. today.
Shift foreman and director of UCAL, Richard Newton, made this disclosure following a meeting today between management of the Transport Board and officials of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) at the union’s headquarters on Harmony Hall, St Michael.
Newton told Barbados TODAY that during the three-hour meeting, Chairman of the Transport Board, Anthony Wiltshire made the promise that a “letter of comfort” would be forwarded to the Board’s bankers to ensure that the 140 workers received their wages and salaries.
Pointing out that up to 11 a.m. the workers were unsure what action to take following the meeting, Newton said: “I am saying that anytime you have a work stoppage, the first thing the Union does is to ask the workers to return to work. That is the norm, but it is left to the workers to say what is going to happen. I would have to say that at this time the workers are divided as to what action to take. Some want to go back to work and some want to go on a go slow.”
“[BWU boss] Sir Roy [Trotman] called the chairman of the board and he has promised to forward a “letter of comfort” to the board’s bankers today to ensure that the workers receive their pay either today or Monday.
“We do not know if that letter has gone off. The bank may need some time to process the application; so I do not know if we will be paid today,” Newton added.
Meanwhile, commenting on the future of UCAL, Newton said: “We are seeing no future for the company. Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley is saying that we should look for our own land and build a workshop and stop depending on the Transport Board. Lashley is also saying that UCAL is only guaranteed 30 per cent of the board’s work.
“[However] UCAL cannot employ a staff of 140 workers on 30 per cent of the board’s work,” Newton said.
“We may have to send home staff or put them on a four day work week if it continues this way. We may have to have an audience with either Lashley or Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to determine the future of UCAL under the restructuring programme at the Board which is scheduled to begin early next month. At this point the company is bankrupt.
“I have suggested that workers should be given their severance. UCAL owes the Value Added Tax Office $2.4 million in arrears; the National Insurance office $2.1 million; Corporation Tax in excess of $700 000 and creditors $233 000,” Newton added.
Highlighting the insolvency of the company, the outspoken director told members of the Press the company had not paid its creditors since September 2013, stressing that the situation was so bad that they could not buy soap or toilet paper.
“We had garbage piled up at Weymouth for three weeks and we did not have the funds to pay the garbage collectors. Someone spoke to them and they came and removed the garbage that had piled up,” Newton said.
When asked about the board’s plans to reduce the large sum of money owed UCAL by the board, deputy general manager Malcolm Bovell said: “ I can say that an effort is being made to pay some of the arrears. It will come through the Ministry of Transport and Works. That will reduce some of the stress. “