An industrial dispute is brewing at Grenada Distillers between Management and the workers who are represented by the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU Grenada).
The bargaining agent of the workers has accused the company of wanting to decertify the union.
THE NEW TODAY understands that a pamphlet was distributed on the compound in which TAWU has encouraged the workers to stand firm and do not allow the management of Distillers to rob and exploit them.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, President-General of the union, Andre Lewis charged that it is now a clear case that the Management of Grenada Distillers Limited is “hell bent” on deunionising the work force.
TAWU became the certified bargaining agent for the workers at Grenada Distillers in 2009.
Lewis said despite having a signed collective industrial agreement with TAWU, the company has taken an approach aimed at getting rid of the union.
He said a number of the older set of workers have been dismissed from the job, replacing them with new workers who they are insisting must not join the union.
According to Lewis, an annual contract is now being given to these workers and he accused the company of robbing the workers of their years of service and benefits.
He said TAWU is at the stage of reassuring its members that the company has been trying to intimidate them.
The President-General said TAWU has been trying to meet with management for the past two years and has been unsuccessful.
He said the Ministry of Labour has been involved in trying to get both parties to meet together, but Grenada Distillers has failed to attend any of the sessions.
He believes this is a tactical move to prevent TAWU from servicing the workers.
Lewis took a swipe at the company’s owner, Leroy Neckles by accusing him of stalling the process.
He charged that Neckles is seemingly one of the persons who have inherited some of colonial vestitutes with the plantation mentality, and who sees workers as slaves.
“We are measuring this thing, and all depends on which direction Mr. Neckles wants to go – we are prepared. We do not want this to happen… but if we loose any member there, if we loose membership there, if we loose our certificate there because he has changed the workers by dismissing the old workers, bringing in a set of new workers and intimidating them… If he gets rid of the union we will all see what will happen in terms of his product,” he said.
“We have taken enough of this, we have given the system enough time to try to resolve the issue… The company has been making attempts and is hell bent still on getting a poll and encouraging the workers to vote against the union, in this way that they would be able to get rid of the union from the workplace,” he added.
Lewis vowed that TAWU would not allow that to happen.
Without going into great details, he said TAWU can engage in certain actions but that will depend on what the company does.
However, he said the union is demonstrating a high level of responsible behaviour, and will not want to do anything that would negatively affect the livelihood of their members.
“Distillers has a brand name, therefore, if we are not careful, we can hurt our members, but really … if any(thing) is done to get rid of us, the company will pay a heavy price for that,” he remarked.
Lewis spoke of TAWU already notifying the other trade unions operating in the country with a view to seeking their solidarity on the issue.
He said the issue has also been brought to the attention of the International Union of Foods, which represents million of workers throughout the world.
The last major strike to affect Distillers was some 16 years ago.