Industrial action is looming at the state-controlled Grenada Electricity Company (GRENLEC) as the utility company and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) are at loggerheads on a new industrial contract to cover salary increases and fringe benefits.
Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY that both sides ended talks Thursday “deadlocked” with no signs of reaching an agreement any time soon.
One source said that TAWU has since instructed the Grenlec crew of workers that operate mainly in the out-parishes to return to base this morning and park up their vehicles.
He indicated that the Grenlec management is preparing for possible strike action and that its manager, Clyde Hosten is contemplating a round of visits to media houses to brief them on the situation.
According to the source, the union is making demands for salary increases and fringe benefits that will cost the company in excess of EC$80 million dollars over the period covering 2018-25.
He said that TAWU is asking for salary increases of between 6 and 10 percent annually for employees and for Grenlec to now give the workers about one-quarter of its profits annually to share up among employees.
Speculation is rife that the TAWU leadership is entitled to a certain percentage of the profit-sharing given by the company to workers.
The source pointed out that the union is demanding significant increases in fringe benefits like Displacement allowances for when workers leave the mainland to go to the sister isles to work, as well as allowances for uniform, severance pay, leave pay and contributions to the Provident Fund.
The union is also making demands for the pay of meter readers to move from $1,200.00 a month to $3000.00.
In addition, TAWU is also introducing some new issues into the negotiations such as travel allowances for workers between the various branches of Grenlec like Dusty Highway in the south of the island to its office at Bruce Street in the city and to Grenville.
When contacted for comment on the issue, TAWU’s President General, Senator Andre Lewis denied that the union’s proposal was running anywhere close to EC$80 million but declined to give any specific details.
A top-level manager at Grenlec has described the TAWU proposals now on the table as “very interesting” and suggested that this clearly “reflects how they (the union) view the company at this time.”
Grenlec is now back under control of the Keith Mitchell-led administration 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 voiced strong opposition to the decision taken by the 1990-95 Congress government of late Prime Minister Sir Nicholas Brathwaite to sell the majority shares of the company which was badly affected in those days by constant load-shedding, to WRB.
When Dr. Mitchell returned to power in 2013, the U.S Company triggered the buy-back clause in the agreement which saw both sides going to arbitration to settle their dispute.
Meanwhile TAWU issued the following statement Wednesday on its negotiations with Grenlec:
The Grenada Technical and Allied Workers’ Union (GTAWU) and the Grenada Electricity Services Limited (GRENLEC) have been engaged in negotiations for amending the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA). The parties have had five (5) sessions of meetings with a view to reaching agreement on matters such as Salary Increases, Allowances, No Annual Vacation Leave during “Lock Down”, Pandemic Leave, Performance Related Incentives and Concessions.
The Union met with the workers on Monday, May 9, 2022, where the Company’s offer of a lump sum/one-off salary payment was unanimously rejected.
GTAWU and GRENLEC are scheduled to meet tomorrow, Thursday May 12, 2022, to continue negotiations. The parties are expected to focus on the aspect of salary increases with a view to reaching an amicable outcome.