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Government fails to block bonus payment for Gravel and Concrete workers

TAWU President Andre Lewis - addressing workers at Gravel and Concrete during their recent protest

Efforts by the Keith Mitchell-led government to block profit sharing at the state-owned Gravel Concrete & Emulsion Production Corporation have failed.

President General of the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Senator Andre Lewis confirmed on Monday that the industrial dispute was successfully settled and the payments were scheduled to be deposited into the workers’ accounts by Monday.

The employees had downed tools two days after the deadline to receive bonuses on December 15, had passed.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the Corporation stipulates annual profit sharing of 15% of pre-tax profit for permanent workers and one month’s salary for contract employees.

On Thursday, a week after workers began their protest, the Board of Directors agreed to honour the agreement although the Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) administration had been opposed to doing so, claiming that it could damage the future of the Corporation even though a profit was realised for 2019.

The bonus is paid based on the previous year’s performance.

Sen. Lewis said the Union is still not aware of the reason why the payments were late but that they are now moving forward since the matter has been settled.

The government voiced its opposition to profit sharing in a statement and suggested that TAWU and Gravel & Concrete should agree on “a more responsible timeline”.

The government’s position was that, given the negative impact of COVID-19 which caused a drop in the Corporation’s revenue and the fact is that workers received their salaries when the country remained on lockdown.

“With the pandemic creating a very uncertain business environment, based on its widespread impact, there are serious concerns that the payment of bonuses could impact the corporation’s future cash flow, jeopardise jobs and offset further capital expenditure plans to enhance operational efficiency,” it said in part.

Speaking on the dispute settlement, Sen. Lewis had this to say: “These are matters that we can prevent from happening if we all follow the proper procedure, if we manage appropriately and the lines of communication are open.

Too many times workers have to struggle for what is rightfully theirs.”

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