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STRIKE AS LONG AS YOU WANT! by Aaron Moyne

posted 13 Jun 2013, 03:42 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Jun 2013, 03:51 ]
Mr. Peter Collins, Mr. Leonardo Luna and other Company representatives of Construtora OAS, the Brazilian
company building the Point Fortin highway, met with five (5) workers' representatives on 11th June 2013 to discuss ongoing issues.

The Company moved its wage proposal from 5.5% to 6%, a 'colossal' 0.5% leap! This is to be applied across the board should workers accept the proposal. (Therefore, OAS labourers at $24 per hour will receive $25.44 with the increase, while their Soltange counterparts continue at $30 per hour).
 
Additionally, workers 'may' enjoy a 6% increase in six (6) months' time if they receive very good or excellent scores in their performance appraisals.
On Monday 10 June 2013, the Company issued an Internal Memo, which reads as follows:

“The Human Resource Department is under taking an exercise in which personal files of all employees are being reviewed, and as noted there are many employees who have not submitted the Certificate of Character.

This document is essential to employees continued employment on this project. As henceforth only workers with certificates will be appraised. Therefore it must be submitted by Friday 14th June, 2013.

Please be guided accordingly.
Respectfully,
Construtora OAS S.A. Management"


The Union's observations are:

1. A Certificate of Character is not mentioned in the workers' four (4) page Contract of Employment.

2. If it was indeed a prerequisite for hiring, why did the Company flout its own recruitment laws? The Manager responsible ought to accept liability for the said breach, but the workers were the easier target. Management officials should be the first to produce a Police Certificate of Character as two (2) managers have been accused of accepting TT$2500 bribes to secure jobs but were never investigated.

3. Why has this Certificate become necessary now?

4. Does the Company see/ foresee crimes being committed at the site by workers it willingly selected and have gotten significant production from?

5. Is termination or stagnancy a just penalty for a worker who does not provide the Certificate by the unreasonable deadline? (A Police Certificate of Character can take four (4) days or longer to process).

6. Given that OAS has targeted single mothers, a pregnant worker and probationary workers, it seems as though their 'sifting' process is now targetting nationals who are desperately in need of a second chance to earn an honest dollar.
 
What are these workers to do when they are thrown into the unemployment receptacle without just cause?
A Fringe Benefit of $1.44 per hour is to be paid each fortnight if workers have no disciplinary action or injury and near perfect attendance. The Company retracted its original $3000 end-of-year Safety Bonus (i.e. $1.44 per hour) with onerous conditions and instead has chosen to host a "Safety Raffle" every other month.
 
The Company may have to seek the advice of the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) and/ or local whe-whe men ('punters') to pull names out of sombreros as they attempt to motivate workers for achieving safety and health targets on this major construction project.

Caps, flashlights, handbags, key chains and other tokens, normally given to all workers on local construction projects, will now be distributed to workers as though they are patrons at a Las Vegas Casino table. This Company seems to have a special affection for gambling, even when it comes to the very serious matter of safety and health and related motivational factors.

Three hundred and eighty five affected workers were consulted during the course of June 12th regarding the latest verbal proposals. A Brazilian Company official emphasised that workers can strike for as long as they like if they are dissatisfied but 6% is ALL they could offer. 

While the Union appreciates any Company who continues to meet and treat with its workers, the manner in which it is undertaken is of paramount importance. OAS has shown that they prefer the Industrial Relations method of dealing with negative publicity issues while simultaneously bullying their workers into accepting their terms and conditions.

The threat of dismissals and other disciplinary actions loom heavy over OAS workers. There appears to be no genuine intention to engage and motivate workers as they pour blood, sweat and tears into national development. The Government is among the spectators enjoying the bludgeoning of a voiceless workforce by a trans-national giant. Will OAS workers be beaten into submission or rise to the occasion to get their just due?
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