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…as talks breakdown between union, power company
By Svetlana Marshall
While public servants and sugar workers benefited from a 7% retroactive increase for 2021, and in the case of ex-sugar workers, a one off-grant of $250,000, the more than 800 workers at the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) were left out in the cold despite the efforts of their union to secure an increase that would allow them to keep their heads above rough waters as food prices skyrocket.
The workers’ union – the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) – had asked the Management of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) to match the 7% increase paid to public servants but Bharrat Dindyal – GPL’s Chief Executive Officer – said the company is in no position to pay.
With the company’s hardline position, NAACIE has turned to the Chief Labour Officer, Dhaneshwar Deonarine, with the hope that there would be a meaningful intervention. “…there has been a break down in negotiation for the year 2021 between the union – National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), so it is with great pleasure that we the union seek to settle this matter by conciliation,” NAACIE’s General Secretary (ag), Karren Mapp wrote in a letter to the CLO on December 23.
In an interview with the Village Voice Newspaper on Friday, NAACIE Executive Darnell McFarlane said though there has been a verbal commitment on the part of the CLO to meet with the two sides, the Union has not received a formal response to its letter.
According to McFarlane, GPL, under the management ofDindyal, has shown “blatant disregard” for the collective bargaining process. “The CEO has decided not to communicate effectively with the leadership of the Union. We have sent several letters to him concerning the negotiation process, and he has not responded favorably, and in some cases, he has not responded at all,” the NAACIE Executive explained.
McFarlane said from all indication the Management of GPL appears reluctant to negotiate with NAACIE in the interest of the workers.
NAACIE was reportedly informed that GPL was advised by the Government to pay the 7% increase, however, the management of the power company has thus far declined, reportedly on the basis that during the first quarter of 2021, the unionized workers received a 5% increase. Given the 5% salary increase paid, it was reportedly proposed that workers receive the difference of 2%.
But McFarlane clarified that while the workers received the 5% increase on their wages and salaries in 2021, the increase was for 2020 and not 2021.
The NAACIE Executive said the GPL workers are deserving of the 7% and must be paid.
“In this oil and gas century, from a company that ought to be making a profit, which they have billions of dollars outstanding by the government and they are not disconnecting them, but yet the workers have to feel the brunt of not having an increase, though cost of living is going up,” she said.
The NAACIE Executive also laid the blame on the Government, contending that it has been quite lax when dealing with matters concerning GPL and other Government funded and subsidized agencies. To support her position, she pointed to the recent ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case involving the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and BK International.
In justifying its decision to award the Aremu Road Rehabilitation Contract to Chunilall Baboolall, GGMC argued that it was not a “procuring entity” as defined by the Procurement Act but the CCJ, in rejecting the submission, ruled that GGMC is a public agency under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. The court said that GGMC’s functions are public in nature, and further that the commission is government controlled and benefits from government funding.
McFarlane said similarly, GPL’s functions are public in nature, it receives directives from the government, in addition to funding, and as such, the Government, through the Office of the Prime Minister, can sanction the Management of GPL when it fails to adhere to the Labour Laws of the country.
“The government which has oversight for GPL is too lay back,” she posited while calling on both Government and GPL to ensure that the workers receive their increases and all other benefits.