Was it a bluff?
That’s the question many are asking about an alleged move by newly elected President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey, the leader of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), to trigger a brief work stoppage at the Grenada Electricity Company Limited (GRENLEC) almost on the eve of Christmas.
According to well-placed sources in the local trade union movement, the Humphrey-led move was nothing but a bluff as TAWU and the GRENLEC management had virtually reached agreement on a new wage package for the company’s workers.
“Don’t worry with Chess about this strike at GRENLEC. There was really nothing to strike about. He was using the issue to try and save some face among the workers of the country. The real TAWU men in GRENLEC ain’t bothering with him and his stupidness”, said an insider at TAWU.
On Monday, almost 140 GRENLEC workers including those on the sister isle of Carriacou downed tools to protest against Management’s failure to initial new terms with their union.
Several weeks ago, TAWU held a press conference to inform the media about possible strike action at the island’s sole electricity generating company.
Sen. Humphrey charged at the press conference that GRENLEC was not offering anything new on the bargaining table in the face of TAWU demands for a 14% increase in salaries for workers.
The unionised workers started wearing their red union T-Shirts on Monday to send a message to Management and Humphrey briefly engaged reporters on Monday about the GRENLEC issue.
“As it stands at the moment it’s a work stoppage by GRENLEC workers and that is as a result of what is happening at the negotiations for a new collective agreement, which we have been negotiating for several months now”, he said.
“The matter was sent to the Labour Commissioner sometime around February at that time we were demanding 14% increase around a four year period and that to us is a modest demand taking into consideration that this company for the last five years has had a growth in profit before tax of 18% year on year,” he added.
According to Humphrey, the Labour Commissioner made a recommendation which was accepted by the union.
Chief Shop Steward for TAWU at GRENLEC, Richard La Touche told reporters that he is pretty sure that the company could have made a much better offer to the workers.
“…We find the company is playing the fool, they dragging the foot – this has been going on for 3 years now and we have reached the point where we cannot take anymore. We just sending a message to them and hope that they receive the message,” he said.
Humphrey stressed that the reason why the company is holding back on signing the agreement is due to the fact that it wanted to repatriate most of the profits from Grenada to its head office in Tampa, Florida in the United States.
The union boss said that TAWU is determined to prevent this from happening as some of the profits should stay in Grenada to be shared by the workers and also to put back into the Grenadian economy.