Berbice GPL employees go on strike
….residents fear blackouts
Employees of the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) began strike action yesterday across the country. The Berbice workers were among those on strike. The action came in response to a breakdown of talks between the National Association of Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and management of the power company.
More than 100 employees have downed tools in Berbice. There is also the underlying fear if crucial staff from the two main generating facilities in Berbice—the Onverwagt and Canefield Power Stations—will shut off the machinery and plunge East and West Berbice into blackouts.
Yesterday, linesmen, clerical and commercial staff, poles men and transmission and distribution staff in Berbice sat outside in front of an adjacent building to the GPL Commercial Office at Strand, New Amsterdam.
One employee, who spoke under conditions of anonymity, stated that “all commercial, transmission, distribution—all taking strike action because of no increase in wages for 2012”. The individual stated that the employees are not in agreement with the five per cent “all- inclusive” salary arrangement that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GPL, Mr. Bharat Dindyal is offering.
Dindyal is offering a five per cent increase, which includes a three per cent annual in- scale increment, a one per cent across-the-board increase and an annual performance incentive of one per cent. “But we don’t want that because when we were negotiating last year, we proposed 25 per cent across-the-board but then reduced it to eight per cent because of GPL’s financial problems”.
The employee added that GPL was sent a 28- day ultimatum to review the plan or the workers would take industrial action. “We sent the ultimatum to the Ministry of Labour and met with the Minister last Friday at his office. He was supposed to get back to us on Monday but he never got back to us”.
General Secretary of NAACIE, Kenneth Joseph, said that the workers are anxious to strike in a bid to force GPL to meet their demands.
The union wants GPL to respect the bargaining agreement and to pay a three percent increase to the workers for 2012 and 2013 retroactive from January 1 of 2012. They are also asking for the increment increase for 2012 and 2013 to be paid.
Responding to the threat of strike a few days ago, Dindyal said that there is no justification for strike.
When asked how this strike would affect the company’s operations in the Ancient County, as well as in other parts of Guyana, the employee stated, “We are not receiving payments; it would affect the company because no revenue is coming into the company—metering is on hold; disconnections are on hold—it has a great impact on GPL.”
The strike action will continue until the employees hear something tangible from the union and/or GPL’s CEO. When contacted yesterday, GPL’s Area Manager for Berbice, Mr. Ayube Bacchus comforted Berbicians that the generation staff members at the two power stations are working and [he] does not foresee blackouts as a result of the strike action.