By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
Social Security Board (SSB) employees have turned up the pressure on company management, this week, staging protests, a sickout and refusing to relent from their position on a clothing allowance and other issues related to the their pending Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), but Prime Minister Dean Barrow said their actions will make no difference.
At a press conference on Thursday, Christian Workers Union (CWU) President Audrey Matura-Shepherd along with Chief SSB Union Representative Leonora Flowers and Deputy Union Representative Elda Waight outlined the employees’ dissatisfaction and disputed SSB Chairman Doug Singh’s statements regarding the issue.
The Prime Minister, at another event on Thursday, also weighed in on the situation and said the employees’ actions would not expedite the process and that the negotiations would need to take its natural course so the workers need to be patient.
According to Shepherd, the issue of the clothing allowance, which led to the week-long series of protests countrywide and ultimately climaxing with a sick-out on Wednesday, was the last straw. She said the workers have a list of concerns that have troubled them for quite some time and have decided to take their plight public now because management’s refusal to comply with the clothing allowance policy is unacceptable.
The issue revolves around a policy in dispute where the workers claim management is obligated to provide a monetary compensation in lieu of their uniforms not being procured every 18 months. The uniforms were due in December and the employees are calling for their compensation now. Singh, on the other hand, said the company’s management has a different interpretation of the policy and does not feel it is obligated to make such payments.
According to Shepherd the union is concerned because the clause pertaining to the clothing allowance has been contravened and added that the actual allowance is secondary to the main issues affecting the workers. Despite the thousands of dollars spent on the company’s transformation project the staff is yet to see any added benefits from the project, Shepherd said, adding that the workers claim all they have seen are increased benefits going to a selected few at the top of management.
Additionally, the employees say that there is discontent between the Board and staff because there are no general staff meetings to hear employee concerns. According to Shepherd, the situation will persist until the clothing allowance is paid.
In regards to the CBA, employees are asking for a 12 percent raise over a three-year period but at Wednesday’s negotiation session, management said they could not offer any suggestion on a figure until the end of month when the Board meets again. Shepherd said the CBA has been presented to management since last November and they are yet make to make a counter-proposal. She added that the employees feel this is the worst Board and worst management they have ever served under.