Top union officials expressed their shock, disappointment and outrage for what they deemed as the wholesale rip-off of construction workers.
This was in response to Prime Minister Browne’s revelation, recently, that workers at the Dredge Bay housing project are receiving way less than industry standard pay for their labour.
“What I’ve read and what I’ve heard the Prime Minister say, I think it’s really ridiculous first of all,” Charles Mahon, former president of the Guyanese-American Workers United and labour consultant said. “No one whether private or public should ever underpay workers and say it is a contribution to the society.
“I think in this situation, these workers were ripped off and since the Prime Minister made the comment, there should be a fight to rectify it by providing those workers with the salary they deserve. If the government of all people could be underpaying these workers then the private industry would think that they can do the same. You can’t want to give homes to others while abusing those who are building them. It can’t happen, shouldn’t happen.”
Another trade unionist sees the action of the government as setting a treacherous precedent for employers in the construction industry.
“Construction is a dynamic field and you have unscrupulous employers who are now trying to reverse the trend of the common wage or the real wage which construction workers should earn. Everybody is trying to cheapen labor to make profits and in cheapening the labour, government has started to set a standard which is very dangerous for the construction industry,” Deputy general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union, Chester Hughes said.
“YIDA tomorrow may decide that they are not a part of any collective agreement with any construction association and this is the wage they are going to pay based on the unemployment situation and you either take it or leave it. This is where the labour department must now step in and say there is an industry standard based on a collective agreement which governs this industry and whether or not you are signatories to that collective agreement that is the standard we wish to use to protect the people in this industry.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)