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Unions not inclined to fight employers

Andre Lewis – President General of TAWU

With grave uncertainty in the work force due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) has extended what amounts to a hand of friendship to business owners in Grenada.

President-General of the union, Senator Andre Lewis said that the union along with other bargaining bodies on the island are committed to working with businesses to save jobs and not to engage in a showdown with them in the national interest.

Speaking on GBN’s “To The Point” programme on Monday, Sen. Lewis told the host that this message from the trade union movement is aimed at all employers in the country including the government which is the largest employer of labour in Grenada.

“The unions are not here to fight you and to put you out of business – we are here to ensure that workers are treated respectfully and the benefits that we have negotiated be given to the worker and that the worker performs,” he said:

According to Sen. Lewis the workers in Grenada also need to perform on the job as it is a period “for us to work together in the national interest”.

“This is a time more than ever that workers make sure they go to work on time. This is a time that you need to ensure that you do not take longer breaks than you are entitled to,” he said.

“Our economy is under serious stress and therefore the tolerance level of businesses to absorb certain shortcomings will not be there and it is better for you to have a job than to do something that is avoidable and for you to lose your job,” he added.

Sen. Lewis went on: “We are not here to fight employers. This particular period in Grenada’s history calls for all of us to work together and not only for the workers to make sacrifices – taking more money out of the workers pocket through taxation and not going after those who could afford to pay and not paying.

Acknowledging that the national interest means different things to some, the TAWU President-General made a plea to employers to reach some kind of a minimum understanding with the trade unions on the sustenance of jobs including the need to engage in retraining of the workforce.

“…This is a period that we can do a lot of retraining – we can do a lot of retraining as we prepare people to take advantages of new opportunities that shall present themselves next year – am absolutely certain we shall not die,” he said.

Related:  Warning from Sen. Andre Lewis

Sen. Lewis disclosed that TAWU itself has made temporary amendments to the collective agreements reached with some business places in order to help save jobs.

He declined to give specifics because discussions are ongoing between the union and employers but suggested that if certain things are done then that “may trigger certain benefits” for workers.

“We are prepared to make compromises that are reasonable that are designed to help the business to stay afloat but the business will have to be open and objective by showing us the challenge that they face to ensure that jobs are protected,” he said.

According to the trade union leader, the mantra of TAWU in this particular period is the preservation of jobs.

“The preservation of jobs is extremely important in this period,” he said, adding that the union is prepared to sit down and engage employers on the issue.

“So any employers who are faced with challenges – and there are many that are faced with challenges – let us sit together and let us see what best we can work out to keep your business functioning and functioning at an acceptable level and keeping workers employed.

Lewis cited the case of a leading supermarket in the south of the island where he said TAWU did what he called “a number of strategic and tactical discussions and arrangements” in the interest of the workforce at the establishment.

He said the union got a lot of criticisms for the move taken but it is now turning out to be better for the workers.

“I can tell you there is a better understanding because leadership requires the ability to see down the road and to determine what are the two or three most important challenges facing the workers and the company that can keep the company’s business going because if the company goes out of business automatically you lose your job,” he said.

Sen. Lewis told the host that TAWU would look at anything which can be done “to keep the worker gainfully employed even if it means “deferring some fringe benefits because we have to ensure that there is this income for the worker”.

Grenada has suffered hundreds of job losses from Covid-19 which forced many businesses to close their doors as a necessary health precautionary measure to avoid the deadly disease spreading around the island.

There were only 24 cases of the disease reported in the country with no deaths from the virus.

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