TRUCK drivers and other employees of Pre-Mix Limited had their demands for better pay partially met on Thursday, following a long meeting with their bosses and trade unionists.
“We got some form of resolution awhile ago. It’s not everything we wanted to get but it is better than previous offers. They moved the drivers’ rate from $1,605 to $1,817 [per trip] for the remainder of this year. As of January 1, it will move to $2,050. We wanted the hourly men to get more than seven per cent increase. We were hoping they could realign the initial rate. We decided to cut our losses and we’ll try renegotiate better in 2025,” one worker told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday afternoon.
The truck drivers and other workers employed to concrete company Jamaica Pre-Mix Limited were livid over what they said on Wednesday was insufficient compensation for the dangerous work they undertake every day, which is crucial to the development of the building and construction industry in Jamaica.
On Wednesday, a number of Pre-Mix workers went on strike, while top representatives in their union fought for better compensation from them. The strike lasted up to Thursday morning.
“We are championing for the workers to get what we believe they deserve in terms of compensation,” said Dexroy Martin of the National Workers Union, which represents the workers.
However, several workers said openly that they were not happy with the conditions they have to work with.
The Observer was unsuccessful in getting a comment from management at Pre-Mix’s Molynes Road offices in St Andrew.
Said Pre-Mix employee Milton Christie: “We are basically the backbone of the company. We are the leading innovators in concrete business and the workers are being treated unfairly. We know the industry and we know what the market entails. We are being paid the least. We are at the bottom of the barrel. Some places we go, some companies refuse to go. Other contractors will give back them back their money,” Christie said in anger.
“When they come to Pre-Mix we take the work and we do it and come back safely, but the compensation package is just not fair. We go to some dangerous places where there are cliffs and places without retaining walls. Trucks can turn over and God forbid, we can lose our lives. We think the rate is too cheap. We don’t see anything for the risk we take,” Christie said.
He said workers have endured numerous wage freezes and are pleading for better attention at this time.
“Based on what we are seeing, the company is thriving. They are buying multiple equipment, from mixers to service vehicles. They are buying things that are not necessary. We could get some of those monies in our pockets to make us feel better in the place. They have workers who are loyal to the cause. We don’t go anywhere until the work is done. If they say 4:00 am, we are there. We don’t want to break the bank but deal with us fairly,” pleaded Christie.
“Certain terrain is rough. Many people get nervous. A lot of companies won’t risk equipment to go there and we go there and come back. We went to east Kirkland Heights the other day. We were building a retaining wall and the road was undermined, plus the truck had the full load of concrete,” said employee Orville Borrows.
“I had to push the truck in bushes. If I rocked it too much to the right, mashing up the road is one, but the truck could have dropped off and maybe kill you. Some places we go, with the height we go, if we rock the steering left or right, by the time we drop to the ground, we dead fi hungry to show you the height we would drop from. They are not dealing with us right. Me personally, I am very disgruntled. Nuff time when me get my pay it nuh me sense. I can’t meet my demands,” he said, telling the Observer that he has a daughter attending university and his pay from work can barely suffice, which forced him to take two loans.
He continued: “When I see my pay I can’t buy gas to put in my car to drive go home. A nuff time I have to beg my brethren a money to buy gas to go home. Why does it make sense working seven days a week. We have an hourly rate and there is a flat rate for drivers. We say we want $2,000 for a trip for drivers. There are other companies that pay workers a lot more than we get. The hourly men want more than seven per cent pay increase as was proposed”.