Rocky road

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.”

4 Responses to Rocky road

  1. Tony Webster November 28, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Ma’m, I recall wishing you well at the time of your appointment, and I continue to hold that we need clear-thinking, balanced views as we seek to stabilise, and also re=shape the economic furutere of vthis country.

    However, no-one, NO-ONE, is the fount of all wisdom.

    Back in the 70’s, I had a neighbour and dear friend who worked at a place up there at the airport , (then called Seawell industrial Park), who was an American Electronics engineer, and was a senior manager at “International Scientific”, folks who made electronic components and assemblies…a first for Barbados, and something of a feather in our cap! A union ( I cannot recall which, fortunately) brow-beat the company until , first, it was sold-off to new owners, becoming I think, Plessey, and with continued pressure, eventually forced it to re-locate elsewhere.

    Some 350 Bajans…lost their jobs. End of story. Effin you doubt me…search your files.

  2. Bernard Codrington November 28, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Tony, did INTEL move because of union activity or the changed computer technology and production process? The new process was not easily acquired by the local or same workforce in the shortest turn around time. INTEL went where there was abundant supply of this type of labour.

  3. Tony Webster November 28, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Bernard…Intel, who once had 65 Qualified Engineers on staff, is a separate story. As I recall, they moved to Puerto Rico and then moved again to the Far East. (Indonesia?). I am unaware of whether any Union pressures were a precipatating factor in their departure from here.

  4. jrsmith November 28, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    My take, the unions in Barbados need to recover some kind of authority, and strength, reason ,the previous history, nothing was savoured to help the new breed of leaders , to used as a weapon against present day , corporates and, no respect, the present government.

    These new union leaders , needs to grow up pretty quick, on our Barbados shores ,we have ,the cartel, and the badly manage corporates , this is only the start of what’s being played out locally in Barbados. Further more ,the present private sector is behaving as like the present Barbados government towards the unions, total disrespect.

    To put this right , they the unions, required unity and strength, not sitting in the laps of the present ruling political party, as what was allowed to happen in the past decades, leaving the unions leaders, as the team leaders ,but not in charge. the unions need to come out fighting, but beware of ,so call educated persons ,who have never sat in corporate board room, or have a picture of one. We have become so over educated, that most of these people, want to teach us how, to count (ONE TO FIVE)when we are capable and can count (one to a hundred.) bajans we must wake up.


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