Managers of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) took to the streets for the second day in a row yesterday to protest over the company’s “callous and slothful approach” to fulfilling promised allowances and an incremental increase that was agreed in principle during negotiations.
Dozens of junior and senior managers lined the Main Street avenue across from GPL’s main branch in Georgetown, with some holding placards declaring that “Mr. Bal must go,” which was a call for the removal of GPL’s Human Resource/Executive Director Bal Parsaud.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is at odds with GPL’s executive over workers’ rights to access their 2016 allowances and their entitlement to an incremental increase.
Walter George, Chairman of the GPSU’s GPL branch, yesterday accused the executive of “neglect” and acting in “bad faith” after he said they failed to honour their agreement with workers.
According to Patricia Went, GPL’s Principal Industrial Relations Officer, approximately 80 junior and 16 senior managers are being affected by the delay.
The union reportedly received a letter from the executive on Wednesday—after the workers took to the streets—inviting them to meet on April 10th for discussions. However, Went indicated that they are seeking discourse at the earliest possible date.
“Totally unacceptable. We’re asking to meet as early as possible, if not Tuesday, Wednesday, but not week after next,” she stated.
George explained yesterday that in 2016, it had been agreed that negotiations for that year’s allowances would be deferred until later in the year, but he said that an agreement was eventually signed to have it addressed in 2017.
George said that discussions began in November last year, but claimed that the company’s management “showed little to no inclination” to meet with the union members to negotiate the terms.
“Going into 2018 we sent them an ultimatum to meet at the bargaining table, threatening industrial action. They respond very eagerly, compared to now and they met with us the 29th of December, promising that they would settle this negotiation for 2017 in January,” George stated.
He related that in January they managed to arrive at what appeared to be a mutually acceptable position regarding the allowances, including a 3 ½ % increase (down from an initial proposal of 5%), and the executive had indicated that they would prepare the agreement for it to be signed.
George said, however, that the document they subsequently received proposed rates that had not been previously agreed to.
“…When we received the agreement in January, late in January, the issue coming out from the HR Director Office was contrary to the mutually agreed position. For instance, he wrote negotiation for performance appraisal, which was not negotiated at the table. He wrote about changing up the salary structure, which was not negotiated at the table. He wrote about non-shift managers working in multiples of 8 hours or 10 hours in overtime before they attract a meal and these [were] issues that [were] not negotiated at the table,” he stated.
He accused them of “treading on bad faith” by moving away from what was initially agreed to, and requested a meeting with GPL’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Albert Gordon.
George opined that Gordon, new to the position, had been misled. He reported that while some of the issues were cleared up when they met in February, the CEO had an issue with paying out the 2016 allowances, despite, George said, there being a signed agreement from the company’s executive for such.
According to Went, there is currently a provision within the company for managers to receive a 3% automatic incremental increase.
“When the new CEO came to the company and we were meeting with him, he had a problem. There is a provision there for the staff to get a 3% in scaled increment, which is automatic at January of every year because of bunching. If you have somebody now joining the job, I who might be on the job 10, 12, how much years, would get the same salary. So this 3% that was supposed to be there, it was something that was proposed by GPL management years ago. And now that we got the new CEO, when we met today, he said he’s not in favour of getting incremental…you must work for it…,” she related.