NAACIE seeking conciliation over GPL wage talks
With wage talks between the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the management of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) stalled, the union has written to the Chief Labour Officer, Dhaneshwar Deonarine requesting they move to the stage of conciliation.
NAACIE’s acting General Secretary Karen Mapp last week told Stabroek News that there has been a breakdown in communication as all of the correspondence sent to GPL’s Chief Executive Officer Bharrat Dindyal has been unanswered.
“All we are hearing is that GPL has no money to pay increases. That is not communicated to us but it is in the media reports. All correspondence sent to GPL’s [management] is not being answered,” Mapp lamented when she spoke with this newspaper.
Providing an update to shareholders on December 16, the company said while they have achieved 90% of the planned footage, drilling has taken longer than originally forecast. It was stated that the initial results suggest an active hydrocarbon system is present at the Kawa-1 location.
It was noted that the extended period of drilling operations is likely to increase the cost of operations. To this end, investors were informed that the current cost estimate of the Kawa-1 Well is now forecast to be approximately US$115-$125 million. It is likely that the oil company will have to seek additional financing to keep the drilling programme active.
The total cost of the project will be provided at the conclusion of exploration of the Kawa 1 Well when the total depth has been reached and results analysed.
The Kawa Well is located in the Corentyne block where CGX is operating alongside its joint venture partner, Frontera Energy, a Canadian petroleum exploration and production company in the business of heavy crude oil and natural gas. Frontera is the majority shareholder in the Petroleum Prospecting Licences for the Corentyne block.
She said that in the absence of negotiations, they have decided to seek redress from the Ministry of Labour.
According to the previous bargaining agreement, GPL workers were expected to receive a 7% increase this year and 9% in 2022. In 2020 workers received 5% increases and according to Mapp, that was only paid in May of last year. The agreement was said to have benefitted approximately 1,120 non-management staff of GPL, a release from the company said.
“Utilise the approximately $4B from government to pay workers,” she said, noting that if increases are not paid the union will have no hold over workers for actions they make take as she hinted at possible industrial action.
She pointed out that the union has continuously been working to meet the needs of their members and as of recent they have been successful in their bargaining efforts. The union was able to secure wages and salary increases for workers of Chinese-owned bauxite company BOSAI and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
“GPL workers have worked hard too, they worked through the pandemic and continue to do so interacting with people every day. Everyone has been getting salary increases, everyone getting money and the workers are seeking that. Don’t they deserve to get some money too?” Mapp questioned.
Though GPL workers are considered public servants, Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh told this newspaper last week that it will be up to the Board of Directors to indicate whether the employees can be paid the 7% increase announced by government since GPL is a semi-autonomous body.
Dindyal at a press conference last month said “We don’t have money to pay an increase,” as he noted that the company is operating at a deficit. “We can’t afford anything at all,” he added, when asked what could be given.
Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton told this newspaper that the CLO is in receipt of the union’s request and will be scheduling a meeting soon.
Mapp stated that it is improper of Dindyal to make such statements since government has been subsidising the company’s operations.
“Why should the workers suffer for the incompetence of management? It is a decades-old problem - GPL in combatting electricity theft. GPL is a profit making organization. I think the announcement that nothing can’t be given is a bit premature because something is being worked out,” an official at the union, who requested anonymity said.
“I do not think the CEO is aware that government seems willing to extend its 7% to GPL and is empathetic to the employees. GPL is not considered traditional public sector because it has a separate union. But the union has already engaged the government and has stated that it will accept 7%. For that to go through, the other arm is that GPL has to be willing to accept this money and they don’t seem to be pressing for that, although it is not their money,” the official added.
One NAACIE representative said that GPL has been offering less than expected and is “failing to come to the table to honour its fiduciary requirements and to meet with the workers’ representatives because they believe the union is a walkover.”
“I think they take the union for granted and they think this union is weak and… [they] can try to push around the people and it is very, very sad. We want to get GPL to come to the table. They started in August. We are trying to get them to return. We had an agreement already and we can settle this in a democratic way,” the official said.