The month of December has been declared “Red December” by the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) as it seeks to address a number of contentious issues at different workplaces especially contract employment.
The union has decided to target the Grenada Breweries Limited, Caribbean Agro, Calabash Hotel, Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority, Grenada Broadcasting Network, SVG Air, and the National Water and Sewage Authority (NAWASA).
TAWU’s President General, Andre Lewis told reporters that the union has already started to mobilise the NAWASA workers “…to give solidarity to ensure that the issue of contract work is being resolved once and for all within NAWASA”.
“We have contract work outstanding within NAWASA and that goes back in some instances as much as 20 years, 15 years, 10 years, and despite many attempts by the union to resolve this matter, it has remained outstanding and therefore the month of December, Red December 2017 is designed to bring an end to this once and for all”, he said.
“We have done the necessary mobilisation and as the pace unfolds at NAWASA we will keep you abreast”, he added.
According to Lewis, the affected workers at NAWASA should be made permanent and the issue has been ongoing for far too long and the time has come to bring it to an end.
Lewis stated that the union is not opposed to contract work in some circumstances but it cannot be allowed to become a permanent fixture.
“There are times when you may require contract work to be performed which would have to be at a specified short time. So, the union is not opposed to contract work as a form of getting work done when you have an increased volume etc (but) the labour movement in Grenada shall not allow contract work to become a dominant feature.
“For too long this matter has been outstanding, for too long the different parties – the management and the government and the ministries and everyone who (have) some saying to do with NAWASA have been making empty promises.
Lewis also pointed an accusing finger at the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) as another company that is guilty of taking advantage of contract employment.
“We have been trying to make some progress on the matter but the management of GBN has been a bit stubborn. We know that we have a special relationship with GBN over the years of acute industrial actions and it appears as though this is the only medicine that GBN may understand.
“We are hoping that things would be different but we would have to include it in that list of workplaces that have been using precarious work and exploiting workers through the form of contract.
TAWU’s General Secretary, Bert Patterson noted that having the majority of Grenada’s workforce on contract labour is against the law and does not help with the development of the economy.
Patterson chided both the government and private sector for engaging in this “illegal” practice.
“Based on what we have in the employment act at present…having someone just working continuously as a contract worker when the nature of the job is permanent is illegal …”, he said.
“What we’re fighting is an illegality performed by the government and some of the major employers in the island.
He went on: “… It (contract work) is extremely disruptive to the working conditions because we have situations where permanent workers and contract workers work side by side but under completely different conditions.
“So, there is the issue of equity that is totally unfair to all parties and the only thing that does is bring down the working standard of the permanent employees, so we have an obligation to fight that”, he said.
In attacking contract work, Patterson warned that these workers cannot go before a lending institution to obtain a loan or a higher purchase institution to get credit.
“… That cannot be good for the economy and I believe it should also be a concern to the business sector – both the financial and retail business sectors”, he said.
TAWU announced that it has already started low level industrial action at the state-owned Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority over an outstanding issue.
The union leader said that the Minister of Agriculture, Yolande Bain-Horsford intervened and promised to give them a response within a 6-week period and this is now overdue.
Lewis said the minister (has) “not had the decency to even indicate one way or the other as to what challenges there may be if ever that may have prevented (her from issuing a response).
“So, as we speak right now, the Solid Waste matter that has been outstanding for quite a while and in the recent intervention of the Minister for Agriculture who has direct responsibility for Solid Waste, we are yet to have some feedback from the Minister.”