Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Windalco staff defy IDT order to return to work

Published:Wednesday | April 5, 2023 | 1:27 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
Windalco workers protesting on Tuesday.

Angry Windalco bauxite workers disrupted the smooth flow of traffic along the busy Ewarton main road in St Catherine by mounting a massive roadblock on Tuesday as they continued their industrial action.

Motorists who were being impeded watched in disbelief as, despite the presence of a strong detachment of police officers, the protesters laid down several demands they wanted plant operator UC Rusal to meet before they would clear the road and return to work.

For the second consecutive day, the workers protested in defiance of an Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) order to resume normalcy and allow the IDT and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to settle the disputes.

The workers said they would not sign fixed-term contracts that the company is forcing them to accept.

"We have no intention of signing this contract. It is a ploy by the company to avoid paying the benefits we have been requesting," stated Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE) chief delegate Garth Cheese.

According to him, such a contract would free the company of obligations to pay overtime, pension, and medical expenses, which are among the main provisions the workers are demanding.

Cheese said the workers defied the IDT order because it was made without consultation with the union.

"The hearing at the IDT that ordered us back to work was done without the presence of the union. It was just the company and a member of the IDT panel who were present. We can't honour that order, " he said.

"The company accused us of blocking the road to the plant, so we took the decision to block the main road instead," he added.

Cheese said that the dispute had gone to the IDT three times without a resolution.

The roadblock affected many commuters and motorists, including truckers transporting cane to the Worthy Park sugar factory in Lluiadas Vale.

Several delivery salesmen on their way from Kingston to Montego were delayed as the traffic jam stretched for miles.

Many had to turn around and reluctantly used the tolled Edward Seaga Highway, a route they were trying to avoid because of the cost.

Except for one small skirmish involving a member of the security forces and one protester, who allegedly parked his motor car in a restricted area, the protest was mainly peaceful.

The workers have vowed to continue their protest until they get a favourable response from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.