Labour Minister Peter David has helped to broker a deal to bring an end to strike action taken Monday by workers at the state-controlled Grenada Electricity Company (GRENLEC) who were demanding wage increases and improved fringe benefits.
A well-placed source told THE NEW TODAY that the minister was able to get the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) to accept a 4 percent increase in salaries over the next five years.
Grenlec and TAWU were summoned to a meeting Monday at 3.30 p.m. to meet with Labour Commissioner Cyrus Griffith but instead saw the Labour Minister sitting in the chair to try and resolve the breakdown in the negotiations.
The Grenlec offer was between 1.5%-2.5% in annual salary increases for different categories of workers but was rejected by the union which had put forward proposals for increases of between 7 and 10% for staffers.
Political analysts suspect that the decision to get Minister David involved at such an early stage in the breakdown of the negotiation could be politically motivated by the upcoming general election.
One observer said that the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell can ill-afford workers to be engaged in strike action at the moment especially as he just announced that Grenadians will be going to the polls on June 23 to elect a new government.
Minister David is known to have close relations with TAWU’s President General, Andre Lewis as both were products of the ill-fated 1979-83 Grenada Revolution.
Officials of both Grenlec and TAWU will now have to sit down to negotiate other aspects of the Collective Bargaining agreement, especially fringe benefits.
The source said that during the meeting with Minister David, the utility company made significant changes to its negotiating team that now included some members of the governing board that was recently appointed by the Mitchell-led government.
Grenlec is said to be currently tabulating the cost to the company of the 4% increase in salary for employees.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the company had calculated that the salary increases, along with the improved fringe benefits and new items included by TAWU in the negotiations for a new industrial contract covering a 7-year period was estimated at just over EC$80 million.
The union was also said to be demanding that the profit sharing for workers be increased from 13 to 25%.
Another well-placed source expressed fears that some of the salary increases to be paid to workers might have to be passed onto consumers of electricity due to the fact that the company is now plagued by rising operational costs.
He said that the present formula used by Grenlec to arrive at prices to be paid by customers is now considered out-dated and is no longer applicable because the company’s cost of doing business keeps rising constantly.
Grenlec has a non-fuel charge regime in place to take care of its operational cost for issues such as electrical lines and poles.
The island’s sole power generating company is said to have between 160-170 workers on its payroll.
The Keith Mitchell-led administration took back control of Grenlec some 17 months ago after it lost an international arbitration tribunal hearing that forced it to find over EC$200 million to repurchase the controlling shares from the U.S based company, WRB Enterprises.
Prime Minister Mitchell had opposed the decision taken by the 1990-95 Congress government of late Prime Minister Sir Nicholas Brathwaite to privatise the loss-making utility company which was notable for frequent load-shedding due to ageing equipment.
The U.S Company triggered the buy-back clause in the agreement shortly after Prime Minister Mitchell won the 2018 general election and both sides were forced to go into arbitration.