The sacking of a female worker after 25 years of service at the Grenada Ports Authority (GPA) has resulted in a full-blown strike action on the St. George’s Port as workers demonstrate how far they are willing to go if management does not rescind its decision to dismiss the longstanding employee on grounds of poor performance.
“Our focus right now is on getting back the sister her job,” was the stern response of President of the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) Senator Andre Lewis in an interview with THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday.
The trade union leader was probed about the ongoing strike action taken by GPA workers, who downed tools on Monday following what they viewed as the “unfair” termination of the female coworker.
Sen. Lewis said that because the matter is “fresh,” he did not want to “do or say anything that may contribute (in) one way or the other to not finding a settlement,” for the terminated employee, whose dismissal came a few years short of her becoming eligible to retire from the Public Service.
“Based on where we are now, and the action taken by the Port,” which is a major revenue generator for the State, Sen Lewis, who has publicly adopted the position of the workers to stage the impasse, which comes amidst the usually busy Christmas season said, “the workers are dissatisfied, and that’s why they are outside here in solidarity with the worker.”
Day two (2) of the impasse saw affected traffickers, who usually trade perishable and non-perishable items every week, outside the GPA compound where they sought permission to at least be able to load their goods onto the boat for shipment to neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, to avert hundreds of dollars in losses.
Sen. Lewis, who is also the President of the Trade Union Counsel (TUC), was also seen empathising and advising affected traders on the outskirts of the GPA building.
He disclosed that he had “indicated to them (the traffickers) that this matter lies in the hands of the Port, and that they can approach the Port” on the issue, and that “we (at GTAWU) are confident that if the Port is sympathetic towards them, the matter can be resolved, and they can be assisted.”
The affected traders noted that they have not been able to clear their imports from the Port since last week Thursday but their requests were granted to load goods for export to neighbouring Trinidad onto the waiting cargo boat with the help of workers, who THE NEW TODAY understands was temporarily hired to assist the GPA during the already usually active Christmas season.
Sen. Lewis has confirmed reports that the Minister for Economic Development, Lennox ‘Toes’ Andrews, who this week served as Acting Prime Minister in the absence of Grenadian leader, and the line Minister for GPA, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, who travelled out of state, visited the GPA on Tuesday, where he held brief discussions with the employees, who continue to call for management to rescind their decision.
“He (Min. Andrews) met with the workers, and we are still where we are, the matter is not yet resolved,” said the TAWU boss.
In a press release on Tuesday, the GPA sought the understanding of the general public for the delays caused as management defended the decision to terminate the female employee, after an internal investigation found that she was “central to a breach of the procedure with the GTAWU representation,” following the discovery of some “irregularities in the procedure used to authorise exit passes,” during a routine audit, in a matter that was “referred to an investigative Government department for a comprehensive probe.”
The GPA, which is currently managed by Ian Evans, is of the view that actions of the employee were synonymous with negligence, and was considered a summary offense under the disciplinary provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the GTAWU,” the release said.
Sen. Lewis, questioned whether the allegations warranted the summary dismissal of the worker after all these years of service, and expressed the “hope that the matter can be resolved as soon as possible.”
He also placed on record TAWU’s readiness “anytime a meeting is scheduled” by the relevant authorities to discuss the issue.
“We (the union) will attend,” he remarked.
The GPA is responsible for the administration and operation of Port of St. George’s, as well as jurisdiction over Prickly Bay, St. David’s Harbour, and Grenville, on the main island along with Tyrrel Bay on the sister isle island of Carriacou.
The GPA is a statutory body controlled by the Minister of Finance, who appoints the Chairman, and Board of Directors.
The current GPA Board of Directors comprises Ron Antoine (Chairman), Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Mike Sylvester, Commissioner of Police Edvin Martin, Chevanne Spencer-Joseph, Finbar Linton, and George Bain along with Acting Comptroller of Customs, Algernon Belfon, and Sheena Lewis.