BWU says some employers unilaterally slashing pay
AS COMPANIES SWITCH to survival mode during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) is calling on the Ministry of Labour to urgently address a disturbing increase in companies unilaterally slashing the salaries of workers.
The alarm was raised yesterday by deputy general secretary and director of industrial relations, Dwaine Paul, who charged that some employers within the private sector were twisting the arms of their staff to take, in some cases, as much as 50 per cent cuts in salary.
“These employers are doing it as if there is no law and these workers have absolutely no rights. This is not only in unionised environments but also in environments that are not unionised. Let me be clear, the cutting of workers’ wages is not legal unless you can get a firm agreement from workers that they are going to participate in such an activity. Such an agreement cannot be one that is forced or in a scenario where the worker is intimidated. It simply is not binding unless it is totally voluntary,” said Paul.
He argued that based on the information coming to the union, it was now essentially open season on wages, as companies had opted to go after the low-hanging fruit before attempting to exhaust other measures.
“Companies are moving ahead with their survival plan and part of that plan says that they will cut the salaries of workers. People have received memos to this effect, or they would have gone to general meetings where they were told that their wages will be cut and given an effective date. Our report indicates that these wage cuts range from between five per cent to 50 per cent cuts and this goes counter to the Wages And Protection Act.
“You do not have the right as an employer to go into an employee’s salary and reduce them at your whim and fancy,” he stressed, while making it clear that BWU would take up this fight for both unionised and nonunionised workers.
“This is essentially intimidation, and we are telling workers that you do not have to agree to these cuts, and you have to let your voice be heard. The Government has to simply address this matter because we cannot have persons being put in this situation. People will argue that the alternative is being sent home, but the reality is that a salary cut does not provide the employee with any additional security.”
Last week, fellow trade unionist, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, gave a similar account of what he was witnessing in the current industrial relations climate.
“There are people in the private sector that are taking advantage of workers . . . . I had calls from two different people because their workplace told them that they had to take a 20 per cent cut or else they would be made redundant,” Franklyn said.
However, Paul pointed out that compounding the situation was that in many cases, there were no provisions made to pay back these deductions at a later date.
“I must point out that in every one of these cases that have reached us, these funds are not repayable and that is the part that is very upsetting. Where else can employers get financing that they do not have to repay? Workers are being forced to give their money, they can’t get it back and worse yet, there is no clearly defined end date for the cuts to stop.”
Source: Nation Newspaper