On edge

Workers uneasy about future amid serious money woes at UCAL

Some 124 workers at the United Commercial Autoworks Ltd (UCAL) are now on tenterhooks as the company considers layoffs as part of restructuring its operations from as early as next month.

Richard Newton
Richard Newton

Shop steward and director Richard Newton made the disclosure in a Barbados TODAY interview in which he said the business was struggling to remain afloat.

“Unless the Transport Board decides to give us some more work so that we can maintain the staff that we have right now, come January 2015, UCAL might have to restructure,” he warned.

Also contending that UCAL must start operating as a business and not as “a friendly society”, he pointed out that sometimes for “two and three days, men don’t get a job,”.

“What we have to hope is [for] Transport Board to give us some monies,” the union representative told Barbados TODAY while maintaining that “we can’t send people home without money . . . We can’t do as NCC (the National Conservation Commission)”.

UCAL, which is primarily responsible for repairing Transport Board buses, has been in dire straits for some time now with the situation worsening daily.

Newton disclosed that the National Insurance Scheme had taken it to court over its $2.6 million debt, adding that “this really is not the first time they have filed in the Supreme Court”.

He also said UCAL was experiencing serious problems in meeting its Value Added Tax (VAT) and other statutory commitments.

“We cannot pay VAT, we cannot pay National Insurance; we cannot pay corporation tax and we cannot pay PAYE,” Newton explained.

Overall, he said UCAL had around $8 million in debt that this continues to grow while quoting from official documents to show that it was currently $57,000 shy of meeting its $500,000 overdraft limit with suppliers demanding $114,025.76 in outstanding payments.

Aside from what is owed to NIS and creditors, the company has $2.8 million outstanding in VAT; more than $600,000 in PAYE; $708,301 in corporation taxes; a $60,876 bank loan; $987,800 in rent to Transport Board and $1.3 million in back pay, dating back to 2007.

Compounding the situation is the fact that the company is not making enough money to pay wages and salaries and is in the red $129,310, just three months into the financial year that started in August.

“Our bank, Republic Bank, is now reviewing the credits for all the companies that they operate with. UCAL’s review is due February 11, 2015. I don’t know what’s going to happen because they’re saying all the statutory obligations have to be updated . . . Unless we get some money from Transport Board to clear these [debts], get these [payments] up to date by February 11 next year, we’re going to be in trouble with our overdraft facility,” Clarke explained.

Fed up with the situation, the workers operating at the Weymouth, Roebuck Street workshop first downed tools in April over the non-payment of wages and salaries by the Transport Board.

The most recent industrial action occurred in September at which time Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley promised to pay them $3.7 million.

“He has not indicated anything to us since that last meeting, that was sometime in September,” said Newton, who sums up the future of UCAL as “very bleak right now”.

Duty driver Troy Nicholls, who has been employed at the company for 14 years, said the situation was very stressful.

Troy Nicholls
Troy Nicholls

“We ain’t asking for no handouts, we ain’t asking for no favours. We work for our money and it’s hard for a man to come in here and work everyday for a week and then come Friday you don’t know if you’re going to get paid; you don’t know if you’re going to get your money Wednesday (from Transport Board). That is nonsense man!” he said in frustration.

Mechanic Jonathan Jones was also upset, particularly with Minister Lashley.

Jonathan Jones
Jonathan Jones

“The minister made a promise to us on the 26 September that he would give us ‘x’ amount of money and to this day the minister has not honoured his commitment. [I want to know] if the other members of Cabinet are like him, don’t keep their commitments.”

Back in October, Lashley accused UCAL workers of negotiating in the media and warned that neither taxpayers nor the Transport Board will not be held to ransom.


4 Responses to On edge

  1. Tony Webster December 4, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Someone “close” to this disaster, could – and should- write a book(s) on “How to Manage a business”; “1,000 mistakes to avoid in managing a business”. Those who now stand to lose millions….Government; NIS, PAYE folks; individual workers who will necver see thier full entitlements) could take a read of “Cut your losses early…and move on”. Their bankers to read that too, but I’m speculating that someone from very high would have given them a M.O.U (a.k.a. a big rock) “to hold”. The Board of Directors, could profit from a quick read of ” How to shape good policies”. If that is a a bit “heavy”..the board could try a simpler version: “The importance of having ONE sustainable business policy”.

    If no-one is willing to either read, or write such books, then one could possibly invest some further tax-payers millions in a (sorry, another) Commission Of Enquiry, as to how such madness could have been allowed to happen at all …and how to avoid a repetition elsewgere in para-statal bodies. The COI should ensure that Leigh Trotman – in his official capacity- henceforth would do “diligence” on ALL para-statals, AND have the power to commence prosecutions, of all found infelicit, or culpable, or incompetent, or (in the slimmest of chances)…downright dishonest. Q.E.D.

  2. NIK December 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Now why is it that you are owed millions of dollars by Transport Board and yet you owe them rent. I would say your rent debt should be cancelled out. Since Transport Board is Govt owned why isn’t the rest of the debt to N.I.S, PAYE, VAT and corporation tax also cancelled out leaving only the monies owed to debtors like the banks. Learning how to negotiate is important. Why it that the GOVT can owe you putting your business in jeopardy for debts that you are required to pay to them, but are unable to do so because they are not meeting their financial obligations to you. Tek Dem to court.

  3. Tony Waterman December 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    WELL WELL!!!! Here is a CLASSIC Example of a Business that should not be in Business, and i am being GENEROUS in actually referring to UCAL as a Business. and let me state upfront, CLEAR and in no mean terms, the Directors and the Accountant (s) Of this so called Business should be ARRESTED and charged.
    they are part of the reason along with the same Government with their inefficient money collection systems that the Said Government is in Financial troubles also.
    Here they (UCAL) are complaining about Monies owed to them by the Transport Board (Government) when they have failed to pay the said Government Monies that they Have Collected on BEHALF OF the said Government, but have NEVER handed over to the corresponding Govt. entity.
    They owe:-$2.6 million to the NIS
    $2.8 million to VAT
    >$600,000 in P.A.Y.E
    $708,301 Corporation Tax
    $60,876 bank loan
    $987,800 Rent to Transport Board (Government)
    $1.3 million in back pay dating back to 2007.(7Yrs)
    when it comes to the NIS, VAT P.A.Y.E, the Incompetence of the NIS and the Inland Revenus Dept. (NOW BRA) is highlighted, no one should be allowed to owe the Government this amount of Money, when it was not theirs to keep in the first instance as it is monies that is being collected on BEHALF of BRA.to be PASSED on to them in a TIMELY manner.
    I don’t know who collects Corporation Tax, but their REARS should be on the Fire also.
    If as this article reads, UCAL owes the Transport Board a little shy of $1Million in rent, why would the Government not Subtract that amount from what they owe UCAL and then pay them the Balance??
    it seems to me that they are a whole lot of EDUCATED persons in Barbados, but SMARTS and COMMON SENSE seems to be a SCARCE COMMODITY.

  4. Tony Waterman December 4, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    @Tony Webster!!! You are the Second person i have seen, who have used the the term Q.E.D. at the end of a COMMENT, and i wish and hope that all persons would refrain from doing so, as that term is supposed to be used only after one has SOLVED a Mathematical problem
    Q.E.D. is an initialism of the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum, originating from the Greek analogous hóper édei deîxai (ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι), meaning “which had to be demonstrated”. The phrase is traditionally placed in its abbreviated form at the end of a mathematical proof or philosophical argument when what was specified in the enunciation — and in the setting-out—has been exactly restated as the conclusion of the demonstration.[1] The abbreviation thus signals the completion of the proof.
    None of which you have done in your comment, all you did was made a comment, you have not proven anything either mathematical or philosophical.
    I do agree though, that giving Leigh Trotman some Legal Powers, “MIGHT” help in remedying some of the ineptness that is now existing.


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