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Workers threaten violence at local quarry

An aerial view of the Mt. Hartman Quarry Site in the south of the island

Disgruntled workers are threatening to resort to violence against management at the Mt. Hartman quarry in the south of the island due to monies owed to them in salaries.

A spokesman for the disgruntled workers called THE NEW TODAY to complain that the situation on the work site has deteriorated drastically with the new Management team under the banner of CCC Caribbean that has taken over from Kuwait Consolidated Construction.

He said that the employees want Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and Works Minister, Gregory Bowen to come to their assistance in the face of alleged mounting problems with management at the facility that is owned by the State.

He charged that the workers are fed up with the total lack of respect shown to them by the current management running the quarry including the lack of communication and the failure to meet with them to address many of their burning concerns.

He said the conditions at the workplace amounts to “the return of slavery” as the workers are forced to work under some of the most terrible and harsh conditions on the island as they have no union to represent them on the job.

He claimed that several of the workers are now frustrated and had to be refrained as they were speaking about engaging in “violence” due to the failure of management to pay them on Friday.

“It is serious. I am working down there and am telling you,” he said.

The spokesman added that the situation at the Mt. Hartman quarry site took a turn for the worst with the pull-out of the Kuwaitis and the takeover by a new management team under the control of businessman, Nelson Louison.

He said that Louison will make periodic visits to the quarry and drive through with his vehicle glass always up and not stop and talk to the workers to hear about their grievances.

According to the spokesman, things took a turn for the worst on Friday as the workers who were expecting their pay cheques were forced to leave the compound without any salaries and swearing to engage in violent acts.

“The workers get so sick and fed-up with the situation that they just close down everything and they go. The workers and them can’t take it anymore. Ah tell you them fellas bringing us back to slavery,” he said.

The spokesman told THE NEW TODAY that the workers are being “frustrated” by the actions of the new management team at the quarry and has “nobody to talk for us.”

“I don’t know what Louison and them doing. The guys and them making the workers ketch their royal hell,” he quipped.

The spokesman called on PM Mitchell and Minister Bowen to conduct an investigation into what he referred to as those government’s assets at the quarry which is supposed to provide hot mix for road repairs on the island.

He suggested that “somebody has to come and investigate and see and hear from the workers what is really going down” at the quarry.

“Am telling you that it’s really bad … if you see them workers and them (Friday). Immediately after they get that message (about no salaries) they close down the quarry – everybody just pack up and go,” he said.

The spokesman complained that the workers were sent home due to COVID-19 since the end of March and have not received any salaries for the months of April and May.

He spoke of information reaching them through the foreman that arrangements are being made for the quarry workers to benefit from the government stimulus package but no state funds have been paid to them.

He disclosed that a limited number of employees, about nine crusher workers were called back on the job two weeks ago and have to make their own arrangements to reach to work because no public transportation is taking place in the country.

The spokesman said: “They called us back to work and they did not even provide a transport to go and pick up workers and drop them home”.

He added that one of the workers has a personal vehicle and that co-workers will often come together to purchase gas for the vehicle to take them to work and back to their respective homes.

He referred to a fleet of vehicles that were based at the quarry under the Kuwaitis but the new management removed them from the site and took them to another location at Queen’s Park in St. George’s.

“It doesn’t have one transport down in the quarry (Mt. Hartman). Imagine you are working at a place where you’re working crushers and things like that – and you don’t have a transport in case something (like an injury) happen to one of the workers. What is happening?

“The situation is real bad – people are frustrated. Three months now we haven’t got a cent. We go back out to work and Friday now when people looking for a little thing to go by, they call 2 o’clock in the day and saying we go get pay Tuesday, the 2nd June.

‘How could they be treating workers in that kind of manner especially in these times? I can’t understand it – the guys and them start to preach violence and them kind of things now. It’s a frightening situation now.

According to the spokesman, the angry workers are issuing an open invitation to the local media to visit the quarry on Tuesday to see for themselves the existing working conditions.

“We want somebody to come down and talk to the workers themselves – to hear the cries, to hear the stories,” he remarked.

He claimed that two of the disgruntled workers have just left the work because “of too much of a pressure” on the work site.

The spokesman also accused the new management of not providing the necessary safety tools and equipment for workers to perform on a safe environment at the quarry.

He said that productivity is very low at the quarry at the moment as there appears to be some problems in installing a new asphalt plant as the old one at the workplace was decommissioned by the new management without giving them any reason.

“Everybody get affected by that – the road workers, truckers, the workers on the asphalt plant. Up to now they can’t put up the new asphalt plant. I want somebody to come down there and see the state that this Louison boy and them have this place down there – both the quarry and asphalt plant,” he remarked.

“It’s a height of chaos, exploitation, victimisation – all those kinds of things and them in one. I am telling you that the workers and them are getting so frustrated – you should have seen the reaction of them fellas and them on Friday,” he said.

THE NEW TODAY was told that management without any consultation with the workers increased the working hours from 7.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. daily.

A family member of Louison quoted him as saying that the contract agreement with the workers is for salaries to be paid at the end of the month and not fortnightly as existed under the Kuwaitis.

In addition, he said there is nothing much going on at the quarry but that the workers were only called back out to engage in preparatory work for when the business resumes full operation.

He urged the workers to exhibit restraint in the circumstances as businesses are currently forced to operate under a State of Emergency including a Curfew and to wait for things to return to a state of normalcy when the management can be engaged on the way forward at the quarry.

Editor’s Note: Following the publication of the story, CCC Caribbean, the operators of the local quarry, have denied the claims of the disgruntled workers

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