TAWU takes Breweries to court

The Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) is preparing for another major showdown with the Grenada Breweries Limited.

The union, headed by President-General, Chester Humphrey has moved to the high court to try and get the breweries to pay thousands of dollars in salaries to 93 workers who took strike action in December 2011.

GBL has also filed a counterclaim seeking nearly $350, 000.00 in compensation from TAWU for losses as a result of the strike action that it considered to be “illegal”.

Industry sources have said that a ruling against TAWU could cripple the union and bring about its demise since the trade union body is believed to have been left in a precarious financial situation as a result of the strike some three years ago.

THE NEW TODAY has obtained the court documents filed in the Supreme Court Registry by both TAWU, represented by the law firm of Ciboney Chambers and GBL by attorney-at-law, Dickon Mitchell of Grant, Joseph & Co.

Employees of the breweries on instructions from TAWU took strike action after the union accused the local brewing company of  not negotiating in good faith to hammer out a new collective agreement to cover the 2010-13 period.

After conciliatory talks involving the Ministry of Labour, it was agreed that the workers will return to work and negotiations will continue as GBL insisted that it would not negotiate while the union held “a gun to its head” with workers on strike.

TAWU complained that when the workers showed up on the company’s premises at Grand Anse, they were “locked out” as the breweries continued to use “scab labour” to do its work.

The union is claiming that despite repeated requests, GBL has refused to pay the employees for the period of December 19, 2011 to February 22, 2012 when they were off the job.

The court document filed by Ciboney Chambers is seeking “wages and loss of other benefits due to the employees for the entire period when they were “locked out by GBL”.

In its counter suit, the breweries has deemed the strike action as “unlawful” as it was in breach of the Collective Agreement signed between the two sides veering the period June 1, 2005 to May 31, 2010.

“…The employees strike action was also in breach of the express terms and conditions of the contracts of employment between the Defendant (GBL) and those employees who engaged in the strike”, GBL said in the counter claim.

In addressing claims that the workers were effectively “locked out” from its premises, GBL said that it had no knowledge at the time that TAWU “had decided to end the unlawful strike”.

In addition, it said that it was not in a position at the time to immediately allow the workers back on the premises as it had “to secure and safeguard its plant, raw materials and drink products” and as such “was not in a position to facilitate the immediate resumption of work or the immediate reinstatement of the employees who had engaged in the unlawful strike” as the company “needed time to reorganise its operations to that which existed prior to the unlawful strike”.

GBL also pointed to a clause in the existing Collective Agreement that states that “the Company may use the lockout at its discretion” when there is a dispute.

Following are the relief being sought by Ciboney Chambers on behalf of the 93 affected breweries workers:

(1). A declaration that the Defendant unlawfully refused to reinstate its employees, within a reasonable time, within the meaning of section 66 of the Labour Relations Act (Act 15 of 1999), after they presented themselves for work on 19th December 2011 following strike action.

(2). A declaration that the Defendant engaged in a ‘lockout’ of its employees within the meaning of the Labour Relations Act from 19th December 2011 to 22nd February 2012.

(3). A declaration that the Defendant had legal obligations to pay its employees all salaries and other benefits flowing therefrom, from the period 19th December 2011, when the ‘lockout’ began until 22nd February 2012 when the ‘lockout’ came to an end with the reinstatement of its employees.

(4). A declaration that the Defendant unreasonably and unlawfully locked out its employees for the period 19th December 2011 to 22nd February 2012 contrary to the provisions of the Labour Relations Act for the purpose of compelling those employees to agree to terms and conditions of employment.

(5). A declaration that the Defendant had failed to bargain collectively with the employees bargaining agent in good faith and to make reasonable efforts to conclude a collective agreement for the period 2010-2013 within the meaning of section 41 of the Labour Relations Act.

(6). An order directing the Defendant to pay forthwith to its employees all salaries and other benefits due to them for the period 19th December 2011 to 22nd February 2012.

(7). Such further or other relief as this Honourable Court deems just.

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