JAMAICA: Government makes another peace attempt with Pan Caribbean

Published: 08/02/2013, 3:21:27 PM

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) will make another attempt Friday morning to reduce tension at the three Pan Caribbean sugar factories - Bernard Lodge, Frome and Monymusk - over actions taken by the management following alleged security breaches, according to the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

The ministry arranged Friday's meeting after failing to resolve the issue at an emergency meeting on July 25, which was attended by representatives of Pan Caribbean and the three unions representing the workers - Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), the University and Allied Workers Union, and the National Workers Union.

The dispute was triggered by the sending off over 130 security guards on paid discretionary leave on July 21, and the dismissal of their supervisor. There is also the issue of the proposed redundancy of 90 more workers, including 30 security guards, across all three factories.

Pan Caribbean said it has decided to restructure its security department in the wake recent allegations of 26 bearings going missing from the Monymusk factory in Clarendon.

The unions say that despite an assurance from Deputy CEO of Pan Caribbean, Delroy Armstrong, that the police are still investigating the missing bearings, after which a decision will be taken on the company's response, the security guards are still being threatened with redundancy.

Pan Caribbean has said it indicated to the unions that it was "seriously considering" restructuring its security department in light of the security breaches. However, Harold Brown, spokesman for the BITU -- which represents the majority of the workers -- said that at no time during their deliberations prior to July 21, did the management give any such indication.

He said that the company cited the acquisition of automated equipment and the need to cut costs as the main reasons for the redundancy of approximately 90 other workers.

However, he said that the union is now aware that, on July 13, Pan Caribbean signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a private security firm to provide security services at all three factories in the form of armed and unarmed guards, location supervisors, armed response teams, and CCTV monitoring.

Brown said that the union is also aware that the contract with the private firm would be for one year, initially, for Frome and Monymusk and six months for Bernard Lodge.

"It is important to note that to date the company has not initiated a formal in-house investigation into the matter, and is yet to discover the missing items," Brown pointed out.

Meanwhile, the BITU deputy island supervisor also said that another dispute has arisen regarding the management's intention to reduce the current workweek, to avoid paying overtime for the Emancipation and Independence holidays.