The Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) has accused the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of secretly selling the assets of the state-owned Gravel Concrete and Emulsion Production Corporation to Trinidadians without the knowledge of Grenadians.
President-General of the union, Sen. Andre Lewis and his General Secretary, Bert Patterson hosted a press conference on Tuesday to highlight the plight of Gravel & Concrete.
According to Lewis, the “secret” dealing by government with the Trinidadians could have serious implications for the country.
He identified the new owners of Gravel and Concrete as Computers and Control Holdings Limited.
Lewis said what the union knows is that the Mitchell-led government has entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the Trinidad company and has virtually relinquished the control the State once had over the company.
The GTAWU boss gave an insight into the manner in which the former Board of Directors were sacked by Works Minister Gregory Bowen who is responsible for the statutory body.
Lewis who was a member of the board said the Directors had refused to sign a document sent to them to make official the transfer of control of Gravel & Concrete from government to the Trinidad company.
He spoke of the senior government minister summoning the Board to a meeting on October 6 to inform that a resolution will be sent to the Directors to effect the transfer and manage the change in the ownership of the new entity.
“…What is insulting is that the Minister, Hon. Gregory Bowen would find the courage, I can’t describe it any other way, to instruct the board that the document that would be sent ought to be signed without any questions being asked”, Lewis said.
“It was pointed out that it is unfair and unreasonable to request any directive to just sign a document without knowing the content of what he or she is signing or getting into or what impact it will have”, he added.
The TAWU leader expressed the view that the directors have an obligation under law to form their own independent opinions to ensure that the Gravel & Concrete arrangement was not “a case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.”
He said, “While it is for the government to decide on the policy or a change in the nature of ownership, the Board of Directors is charged with responsibility of ensuring that any particular transaction is in the best interest of the corporation.
“TAWU strongly holds the view that any change regarding national assets must be brought to the attention of the general public and we contend that this was not done and this is what gives rise to the serious contention that we have.
“The government has shown blatant disregard in the union’s view for the manner in which our national asset has been disposed of.
“We know that we have (an) obligation to ensure that we have (some) idea of what is being done and no one will force us or put a gun to our heads and even if you put a gun to our heads because ultimately that’s what it boils down to, figuratively speaking, no one would get us to just sign a document that we are not comfortable with.
THE NEW TODAY understands that a new board was put together by government and signed the document the former board had refused to sign in order to hand over control of Gravel & Concrete to the Trinidad company.
General Secretary Patterson told reporters that the only information the union has is that land belonging to the state body will be leased and not sold to the company.
He described it as a potentially “messy arrangement” between the two parties and cited a previous government agreement with GRENLEC.
“Right now, we don’t know if this one is better or worse because no one knows the details…some of the details we know could have frightening implications.
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a mining industry. We’ve been told so officially that the lands will be leased but lease arrangements are not used in mining. The reason being, at the end of the lease period what you lease may not exist because it’s gone, it’s mined out.
“Whether it is oil you dealing with or any sort of mining because it is the actual assets that is being removed and you have no control (over) what is removed within one year or next year or if all is removed in the first year…you have no control over that.”
According to Patterson the Gravel & Concrete deal with the Trinidad company has resulted in the two main producers of construction blocks in the country are from the neighbouring twin island republic.
He also said that this turn of event means that most companies in Grenada are not locally owned.
“We know that it has been announced that ANSA McAL of Trinidad is now exporting blocks to Grenada and selling in Grenada”, he said.
According to Patterson, foreign companies are now in control of the banking industry, insurance and telecommunications companies.
“…Mostly everything else gone, utilities other than NAWASA gone… if you have to buy blocks, you either buy it from ANSA McAL or you buy it from this new company (that) is Trinidadian owned…”, he said.
“…That must worry me as a citizen of Grenada. It is of grave concern to us that everything seems to be going oversees…meaning that we are here but we can only buy (from) foreign entities”, he added.
THE NEW TODAY understands Gravel & Concrete will be renamed GravCon following its takeover by the Trindadians.
The NNP regime has been under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to sell loss-making state bodies as part of the 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).