Feb 28, 2013 News Comments Off on GPL workers on countrywide strike
– power supply will continue – Dindyal
Hundreds of Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL) employees represented by National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) yesterday commenced strike action against a five percent all inclusive package being offered by the power company.
General Secretary of NAACIE, Kenneth Joseph speaking to workers from commercial to technical personnel, outside GPL’s main branch on Main Street, Georgetown, said that strike action will continue until the state-owned power company satisfies the demands of the Union.
He said that workers with NAACIE membership at all the stations will also be striking. The Guyana Public Service Union has since lent in support to NAACIE’s cause. Its members will not be carrying out tasks that are done by NAACIE’s staff, Joseph said.
He said that the strike action could result in power outage and advised that Guyanese stock-up on candles and kerosene.
However, GPL’s Chief Executive Officer Bharat Dindyal, who was called an “iron eagle” by his employees as they protested his Duke Street, Kingston, Office, said power supply will not be affected. He said that in Demerara, some 90 percent of electricity is provided by contractors including Wartsila.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) provides a large section of Berbice with electricity. However, he was unsure if electricity would be negatively impacted in Essequibo.
Dindyal added that customers desirous of paying their bills, or purchasing credit token for prepaid meters, may do so at any of their collection agencies— the commercial banks, post office, Bill Express and Sure Pay.
According to the NAACIE leader, Joseph, a request was made for an eight percent across the board increase for all categories of NAACIE workers employed with GPL. Initially, the Union had requested a 25 percent across the board increase but that amount was reduced after considering the company’s financial position, Joseph stated.
Joseph found the offered increase insulting. GPL is offering a one percent performance increment and a three percent annual automatic rate increase. The three percent annual automatic rate increase is part of an agreement package between the Union and GPL signed in 2001.
According to Joseph, that would amount to the five percent all inclusive package and reflects the five percent wages and salary increases Government gives to public servants annually.
He added that increases in wages and salaries should mirror the country’s inflation rate and in Guyana’s case in 2011 the inflation rate was 4.5 percent, as such, a one percent wage increase is unacceptable.
He is confident that GPL would meet the demands of the Union since it was granted $11B in loans from a commercial bank. He made the deduction that if the company could access such a huge loan it therefore shows that it has the capacity to repay it. Joseph further stressed that GPL is selling electricity at the maximum cost to citizens.
He said that the provision of electricity and customer service is done by the workers. He believes that the workers should be adequately rewarded for their services provided to the company and nation at large.
The scores of workers who began their protest at Main Street and marched to the CEO’s office in Duke Street also shared that sentiment. Amidst the protestors were two pregnant women. There they voiced their disapproval at the package being offered by GPL.
“No money…No work,” “What about the US$13,800 paid to the CEO”, “Stick to our agreement,” “Total Disrespect for workers” were among the many slogans on placards held by the disgruntled workers.
In a press statement, GPL stated, “Given its precarious financial position, the company feels that the Union is being unreasonable in its demands. Any further increases in salaries may very well have to be funded via tariff increases or government subsidies.
“The company recognizes the burden the relatively high tariffs place on its customers and do not feel justified, even though it has the ability, in increasing tariffs just to fund increases in employment costs.”
Justifying its package, the power company said that it took into consideration its financial status and the ability to pay the increase; ability to sustain the increases in the future, and relative remuneration of GPL staff to national levels.
GPL claims that it continues to be beleaguered by high oil prices. As a result, the company suffered significant financial losses, amounting to almost $5B in 2012. And, losses are projected to continue in 2013.
GPL is also challenged by depleting cash resources to the extent that it has to resort to Government for significant subsidies in order to sustain operations.
“Employees in the NAACIE category cost GPL almost $1.5 billion annually in remuneration, which is the highest non-fuel expenditure in the company. They enjoy an average annual remuneration of $1.7 million per employee, which ranks amongst the highest, if not the highest, in the country for employees in the same category,” the release said.
Nonetheless, employees were still offered a five percent increase in keeping with the status quo over the last five years. But, the Union rejected GPL’s offer for 2012 and requested the intervention of the Labour Minister.
The release stated, “The request was granted and the company expected that this would have defused the Union’s ultimatum to take industrial action. Unfortunately for all, and despite the Minister’s intervention, it appears that the Union insisted on taking industrial action. The company has not been informed by the Union of such action, but staff members are on strike today.”
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