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….calls on labour Mlminister to further intervene,
…wants matter to be sent to Arbitration Tribunal
By Svetlana Marshall
The Guyana Postal and Telecommunication Workers’ Union (GPTWU) has penned a letter to the Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, registering its objection to a move by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph company (GTT) to pay its workers an annual gratuity of 5 per cent though negotiations had not concluded.
In the letter dated February 26, 2021, GPTWU President Harold Shepherd said the telecommunication giant commenced the payment of the 5% annual gratuity on February 18, though during a meeting last December, the union had rejected the proposal.
“This, the Union rejected and management had given a commitment to review the 5% annual gratuity and thereafter for the parties to meet by the end of January, 2021,” Shepherd recalled while noting that the meeting was never held.
Putting the issue into context, the GPTWU President explained the substance of the outstanding grievance was the telecommunications company’s contemplated decision to wind- up the extant pension scheme, the benefits of which is a legitimate term of employment of the company’s unionised employees.
During an August 31, 2020 meeting involving GTT, the Postal and Telecoms Workers’ Union and the Labour Ministry, the company had agreed not to proceed with its plans with the winding -up of the pension arrangements.
“Discussions involving the parties, inclusive of your ministry continued in what we the union considered to be in good faith, but as the events turned out, the company has adopted a less than honorable posture by trying to foist on the employees, a unilateral closure of the Pension Scheme, which constitutes a blatant violation of the employees’ extant employment contract,” the union president told Minister Hamilton.
At a meeting held on December 21, chaired by Gilian Burton-Persaud and attended by the Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, the Union presented a proposal which was designed to alleviate the unilateral closer of the pension programme. According to the available financial documents, programme is in deficit relative to its funding target with a past service deficit of more than a three quarters of a billion Guyanese dollars.
It was during that meeting that the annual gratuity of 5% proposed by GTT and rejected by the Union.
It was noted that attempts to contact both Burton-Persaud and or the Chief Labour Officer for an update at the end of January and early February initially proved futile. However, when Burton-Persaud made contact with the Union, she indicated that she hadn’t a feedback from GTT.
“To the dismay of the Union, GT&T has commenced the payment of the 5% gratuity to its employees, effective from February 18, 2021, which is grossly inadequate, since it is also taxable,” the Union President told the Labour Minister.
Given the situation, the Union is asking the Labour Minister to intervene and to insist that the company desists from winding- up the Pension Scheme.
It wants the Chief Labour Officer to declare a deadlock as is required by the extant Collective Labour Agreement so that the matter can be referred to an Arbitration Tribunal under the Essential Services Act.
“This matter started prior to the advent of the COVID-19 distress which has severely attacked the Social Protection networks of workers and to allow the company to wind-up the Pension Scheme in a framework of deception, would be tantamount to a betrayal of Workers’ rights, Guyana’s Decent Work Country Programme and our commitment to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development goal,” the GPTWU President said.
He emphasized that the matter would be better resolved by an Arbitration Tribunal.