Union fearful of direction in which cement industry is headed
The Barbados Worker’s Union (BWU) has issued a strong warning that the local cement industry is going down the wrong road.
And it has taken issue with both the Trinidadian-owned Arawak Cement Company and the Barbadian-owned Rock Hard Cement, which recently entered the market, ending Arawak’s 34 year monopoly.
Blaming mismanagement for the loss of 40 jobs at the St Lucy-based Arawak Cement plant, General Secretary Toni Moore, in a strongly worded statement, accused the cement company of “accepting bad advice from consultants” prior to the negotiation process between the two entities.
“The Arawak case has been especially troubling on a number of levels. Firstly, because poor management decisions over time have crafted the fate of the workers at that plant; secondly because a major foreign exchange earner for Barbados [exported cement] is under threat and that that threat has presented itself in a manner that challenges the said foreign exchange earning potential,” Moore insisted.
The union boss also took a jab at the Mark Maloney-led Rock Hard Cement saying though more than 40 “casual” jobs would be created as a result of its opening, the BWU could not “support a trade-off of secure employment for an increase in informalisation”.
“. . . the importation of this [finished] product will create more jobs than those 40 or so sacrificed as a result of the most recent Arawak restructuring. Whilst this may be true in terms of the large numbers that will vie for casual work on a weekly basis, this union cannot support a trade-off of secure employment for an increase in informalisation; not at a time when the future of work discussions surround transitioning from informality to formality. We maintain that such position undermines our heritage and threatens our fate,” Moore said, warning that the union would not stand idly by and watch while workers were disadvantaged.
She also argued that even though Government officials had suggested that the introduction of Rock Hard Cement would
help to level the playing field, there was no evidence to suggest consumers would benefit from the competition.
“For sure consumers may or may not benefit from the reduced price of cement and I say may or may not only because there is no way of knowing with certainty that cost savings will be passed on to all customers.”
Speaking in general terms about the path in which industrial relations was headed, Moore said the Union was working to ensure there was no repeat of the Barbados Light and Power saga, where due process was not observed.
She also warned that there were some consultants involved in the negotiations process who had no interest in finding the best solutions.
“Employers must be cautioned against the inclination to accept bad advice from many of those who call themselves consultants and who are pursuing the singular aim of rewriting industrial relations in Barbados to forge for themselves a place in history, even if that place is one which is recognised as one which has facilitated the destruction of our socio-economic landscape.
“Some of that same advice was directed to the Arawak managers . . .” she added.
However, Moore applauded the progress which had been made in the BWU’s negotiations with both Massy Stores and the Barbados Port Inc.
She maintained that while it was never the union’s job to “manage firms” they had a duty to ensure the best deal was brokered for employees.
“The Massy Stores continue restructuring discussions with the BWU; talks that already at this stage have reduced the impact on jobs by approximately 40% below what had been contemplated when the company submitted its initial proposal to the Union. The Union and the company through intense discussion have been able to agree to alternate measures
to achieve savings while reducing the direct impact on jobs. The Union while not undertaking to manage firms must be unrelenting in its efforts to protect human capital; not only for to minimise the negative impact on working families . . .” Moore stated.
“The Executive Council is therefore pleased that the organisational review at the Barbados Port Inc. is at an advanced stage. The discussions have yielded agreements with gave attention to assuring the Port’s competitiveness without having to go the way of the world, the backward approach of casualising employment, or, should I say increasing informality just because it suits the pockets of the few.”