Trouble at second school site

Caymanian workers protest after being told to leave

Police had to be called in when some 38 Caymanian workers refused to leave the jobsite of the Clifton Hunter High School project in Frank Sound after being told to do so by general contractor Tom Jones International Monday morning.

High school site

Brent McLean, second from left, and Steve McField, second from right, point at the Clifton Hunter High School jobsite while discussing the decision of general contractor Tom Jones International to send Caymanian workers away Monday morning. Photo: Jewel Levy

Tom Jones Project Manager Ryan Smith said he was told to tell the Caymanian workers to leave the jobsite, but they refused. Mr. Smith said any other questions would have to be directed to the Tom Jones office.

Brent McLean and Billy McLaughlin of East End Labour, which provides workers for the Clifton Hunter jobsite, said the clash came after an e-mail sent 6pm on Friday, when their offices were closed for the weekend. The email informed them their company’s workers were not to report to work Monday morning.

‘It was only when the offices opened Monday morning that we were made aware of the situation,’ Mr. McLean said. ‘By that time the men had already turned up for work and they were told to leave. When they refused, the police were called.’

According to Mr. McLean, Tom Jones International replaced the East End Labour workers with construction workers of its own.

‘Tom Jones brought 30 workers from another jobsite in George Town to replace the 38 Caymanians workers at the site.’

Mr. McLean said that some of the Tom Jones workers sent from the John Gray site might have been Caymanian, but some were also work permit holders as well.

In addition to the Clifton Hunter project, Tom Jones International has the contract to build the John Gray High School in George Town. However, Tom Jones shut down the John Gray project Friday over a payment dispute. The new workers that showed up at the Clifton Hunter site on Monday had been working on the John Gray site.

Mr. McLaughlin said Monday morning that his workers intended to continue their protest.

‘We are not moving until we get answers, or they will have to shut the jobsite down,’ he said. ‘Imagine; they told us we should be off the site or they were calling the police, and when we asked for Tom Jones, they told us he feared for his life.’

At the security checkpoint, Mr. McLean and Mr. McLaughlin were joined by the company’s attorney, Steve McField, and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, who also voiced their concerns and disapproval at what was taking place.

‘Caymanian workers come first,’ Mr. Miller said. ‘We refuse to be pushed aside any longer.

‘I have every respect for the outside workers, but they can’t just put Caymanians off the jobsite anytime they feel. They have a moral duty as a company to protect Cayman workers.’

Mr. McField agreed.

‘We need to stop this victimisation of Caymanians workers,’ he said.

According to Mr. McField the contract signed with the East End Labour was one-sided from the beginning. It stated Tom Jones International could put workers off-site at anytime with a two-week notice.

‘But they have a moral duty to protect Caymanian workers,’ he said, suggesting Tom Jones International was using the opportunity to get rid of Caymanian workers and hire expatriate workers.

Mr. McField said he, too, had great respect for the expatriate workers, but Caymanians have to pay mortgages, feed their children and pay car loans. He said if there were any downsizing, it should be the expatriates.

‘It is not a rocket science project they are building up here,’ he said. ‘It is only cement and steel and I do not see why people on work permit are given the opportunity to make a living, but the Caymanians are told to go. That just cannot work and we are not moving. It is the work permit holders who should leave or shut the site.

‘Until Tom Jones International tells us the truth about what is happening, we will not be leaving,’ he said.

Mr. McLean said the required two-week notice was not given. He also said this wasn’t the first problem his company had with Tom Jones International.

‘We have been tying to sort out this issue for a long time, but there is no sorting it out,’ he said. ‘If the Caymanians workers can’t work on the site, then nobody else should be here.

‘When there is only gravy left, it is the Caymanians who get to slurp up the gravy and the gravy is for Caymanians now.’