July 03, 2007
Labour Situation between Carillion & Indians
It has become necessary for me to address you on a matter of national urgency that if not dealt with responsibly threatens to destabilize our country. The current atmosphere of animosity on Anguilla does nobody any good, not even those who indicate that they are representing Indian workers contracted by Carillion.
What is the benefit to our country if we descend into chaos and not deal objectively and in good faith with the matter at hand.
The situation with the Indian workers contracted by Carillion is one that we all must resolve in good faith; one that must be free of personal and political agendas; one that must be in the interest of all parties involved, and one that is in the interest of Anguilla at large.
In our press release of June 27th, 2007 Government indicated that terms and conditions for return to work had been agreed and that a process of negotiations for dealing with the issues raised by the representatives of the workers would be established.
On Friday June 29th, officials from Carillion met with a representative group from the Indian workers, their representatives, and Government to discuss the way forward for reaching some agreement on wages.
Members of the Human Rights Committee visited the property on Thursday June 28th and reported that the living conditions within the work camp were satisfactory, though some overcrowding need to be dealt with. This seemed to be a temporary situation as the camp is transitioning to larger living accommodations. The workers were reported to be satisfied with their treatment as far as food and other human needs were concerned.
Yesterday, Monday 2nd July, the Regional Director and the Project Director of Carillion met with Government Ministers to report on their progress and indicated that there would be a meeting to discuss the cash or wages element of the compensation package. I reinforced the importance of this dollar payment to moving the negotiations forward and I indicated that it was Government’s position that this had to be handled correctly in the national interest. Subsequently, legal representatives of the workers met with other senior managers of Carillion to renegotiate wages as mentioned earlier.
After that meeting the legal representatives of the workers met with me, other Ministers and officials and explained that the discussions on wages which they held with officials of Carillion had broken down and they felt that Carillion was not prepared to accept or discuss their proposal that the cash element of the workers compensation in the lower grades be doubled.
In other words those with a base cash element of $180.00 be increased to $360.00, those at $250.00 be increased to $500.00 and those at $350.00 be increased to $700.00, and those at $400.00 to $800.00. The other Indian workers who are already receiving between US $1,200.00 and US $2,500.00 cash per month were not included in these negotiations as it was felt by the representatives that these salaries were acceptable.
Government indicated that this proposal merited serious and urgent consideration and informed the legal representatives that we intend to call Carillion to the offices immediately and reinforce this proposal. The meeting began at 6:00 pm. Officials of Carillion left my office at around 8:00 pm last night with a clear understanding that in Government’s view this was the only way forward.
It is my position that the representation made by the representatives of the Indian workers to Carillion should be given consideration, and if Carillion has concerns about this request they should put forward a counterproposal that should form a basis for further negotiations.
Yesterday morning I placed a call to the Indian High Commissioner whose role is to protect the interest of his nationals to request that he comes to Anguilla immediately to assess the situation of his nationals on Anguilla. He said that yesterday was a holiday in Guyana and would get back to me with more firm details on his arrangements. He also indicated to me that he had no knowledge of what was going on in Anguilla at this time. He had visited the workers accommodations in Anguilla on two previous occasions and was satisfied with the conditions of his nationals.
There is no need for Anguillians to allow our peace and stability to be threatened by actions now being proposed by some local sympathizers of the Indian workers. Their message has gone through loud and clear and any further civil demonstrations will not be helpful to Anguilla’s development and stability.
The Indian workers came here as guest workers in our country to assist with our development at a time when there is a need for additional labour. They were hired by the Contractor on the basis of compensatory package including room and board, all meals, medical, housekeeping, and air transportation e.t.c. Our estimate of the smallest package provided to the Indians is approximately US $1,000.00 per month. What they receive in their hand is a small portion of their total package. The public has been misinformed in this regard.
Government will ensure that representations made by the workers are considered in full. In the meantime, I call on all Anguillians to give us their support to bring an equitable and amicable solution to these issues.
May God continue to bless us in this time of trial.
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