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Strike at Gravel & Concrete

TAWU President-General Sen. Andre Lewis was in the thick of things with the workers who took strike action at Gravel & Concrete

Workers at the Gravel and Concrete Corporation are off the job for a second day as the company keeps them in limbo over year-end bonuses with the Board refusing to sign off.

More than half of the hundred workers at the Corporation’s four sites at Mt Rush and Queen’s Park in St George’s, Telescope, St Andrew and Levera in St Patrick downed tools in protest, to try and force management to pay up a 15% profit share which was officially due on Tuesday.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the payment is part of the Collective Agreement signed between the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and the Statutory Body.

Management had told the workers that they would be told (today) Friday whether or not they will receive bonuses and when.

On Thursday, Gravel and Concrete’s management level staff were busy sending financial documents related to cash flow to senior staff at the Ministry of Communications and Works, under which the Corporation falls.

A source inside the Corporation said the Ministry will make the decision regarding payment.

The agreement between TAWU and the Corporation states that workers will receive an annual share of the pre-tax net profits.

The bonus is paid based on the previous year’s financial performance and workers say they do not expect the arrangement to be affected by COVID-19.

“ Next year is a different story because we have COVID but what we are owed has nothing to do with what happened this year, it is from 2019,” one employee told THE NEW TODAY.

On Thursday morning, Union officials, including TAWU President-General Senator Andre Lewis met with workers at the Queen’s Park site.

Sen. Lewis told reporters they would not resume work until they receive the money owed to them.

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The last Collective Agreement expired about eight years ago and a new agreement is yet to be reached but Lewis said based on the terms it is not invalid and the expiration cannot be used as a reason for the Corporation to not meet its commitment to share profits with the employees.

He quoted a clause in the document which states that the agreement would “renew itself in January of every year”, adding that the last salary increase came into effect in January 2018 in the absence of a new agreement.

Workers said they are disappointed and surprised by the refusal to pay them on the stipulated day since General Manager Wilfred Hercules had given assurances that there would be profit sharing.

Hercules did not comment directly on the issue but he said the Ministry of Works will be the one to issue any public statements.

Lewis said there were years when there was no profit sharing because the company declared a loss. He did not give the specific years when this occurred.

Gravel and Concrete has been financially troubled over the years and this has been linked to issues of corruption and mismanagement, among other things.

The Mitchell Administration had sought to off-load the Corporation on a Trinidad-based company, through a Public/Private Partnership but this ran aground over terms and the State has had to pour millions of dollars into the entity to keep it going.

The Gravel and Concrete Corporation has also suffered as a result of competition from large contractors who buy their aggregates cheap and produce concrete mix for large projects, including most of the hotel projects undertaken in the last five years.

The Corporation has not been able to compete because of lack of equipment to fulfill contracts for large projects.

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