by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Scores of employees from construction company CONTEC Masonry staged a protest outside the company’s office in Canada Estate St. Kitts on Monday morning (November 28 2022), calling on their manager to pay them their wages.
The workers accused management of being delinquent with their payments; and cited some of the hardships incurred as a result of the payment situation.
A Guyanese worker shared his purpose for protesting and made repeated payment demands for all the money owed to him.
” We’re protesting because of wages. We’re being owed money from January until now- holiday pay and whatsoever…People get money Friday, I ain’t get none. I have a family to feed, four children to maintain, bills to pay, [I had] an operation and I can’t get my money to send back to Guyana to pay the doctor fee, so that’s why I am out here. I need my money today and I need all.”
The man added, “If we don’t get [our] money today, this [will] continue all the time. If we don’t get [our] money today, this is going to continue.”
Another protestor, Wilfred Thomas, has been working at CONTEC Masonry since its inception (1992). He indicated that he solicited at least one week’s pay from his boss to pay his debts to prevent him from going to prison, but his request wasn’t followed upon.
“I am Wilfred Thomas, and I am protesting today because I am fed up with the treatment. I am living in poverty and working every day. Right now, my balance is EC $11,447.39. That’s my balance. I went to prison the other day and I [told] my boss to give me one week’s pay that he owes me so that I can pay my debts and up until today, I haven’t received it. I went to prison and came back out. He asked me when [I’m going in] and I [told] him the time done gone and he still didn’t give me any money. I actually went, [spent] the time and came back out. So, I’m protesting today because I am hurting. I need my money.”
One Spanish-speaking worker mentioned that he is owed EC $4,000.00. The man explained that some weeks he receives EC $400.00 or $300.00, but last week he was given a payment of EC $700.00, which was still not enough to pay his month’s rent of EC$1000.00.
Another demonstrator indicated that he is hurting because a proper Christmas shopping is not certain for his family and that of his co-workers.
“Now this is December coming, big Christmas is coming and we ain’t sure of something to go and make Christmas shopping to put in our house for our family to eat. How [are] we supposed to survive?
He added, ” We ain’t moving until we get some money in our hands; all of our money! We want all. We can’t take this no more. It’s overbearing! It hurts!”
A demonstrator’s placard read, “I am fed up of working without pay! Since December 10th 2021, we have to wait in CONTEC’s yard until 5:30 pm to be paid in cash instead of cheque and every Friday since [then] I have been short-paid. I have worked all week and have not been paid not one cent on Friday. I want my money!”
The same protestor also stated that he is owed about EC $53,000.00, thus questioning the heart of the manager.
“I can’t understand if this man has a heart. Every week you work, he balance you and next thing you look and you not [getting any] money. Then he pays you EC$200.00; sometimes he pays $300.00, sometimes he pays $500.00. “What [can that] do?” EC $500.00 can’t go [to] the shop. You can’t go to the shop with EC $500.00. That is petty cash!”
Mr White, a senior worker, also indicated that he is owed eight months’ salary, which totals more than EC$50,000.00.
Another worker said the employees love CONTEC and would pour out their all for the success of the company, but he does not believe that the relationship between the employees and management will mend unless the workers are paid in full.
Generally, the hardships outlined by the demonstrators include the inability to pay their rent and other bills, difficulty in purchasing food and providing proper financial support to their children.
Meanwhile, the demonstrators also accused the management of CONTEC of not ensuring workers receive vacation pay, Social Security is paid, and in the case of some non-national employees, work permits are paid.
WINN FM made several calls to the manager of CONTEC for comment, but all calls to the company’s main line were unanswered.