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Power company unions demand right to joint negotiations

GPSU President, Patrick Yarde (left) and his NAACIE counterpart, Kenneth Joseph briefing the media at the GPSU’s headquarters, Regent Street and Shiv Chanderpaul Drive.

The two unions representing employees of the state-owned Guyana Power and Light (GPL) on Monday threatened to complain to the Labour Ministry about management’s refusal to negotiate jointly with them.

The National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) accused the power company’s management of leveraging its position during separate talks. “We have, during our negotiations, information that is given by the company- different information for one union against the other…for instance financial information because our members are aware of the information at different level and as such the information is used to hoodwink one section against the other,” said NAACIE President, Kenneth Joseph.

If GPL does not give into the unions’ demand, they plan to take the matter to Conciliation and inform their international affiliates in the hope that they can pressure them successfully.

GPSU President, Patrick Yarde said the only explanation that has been given by GPL’s management is that the unions have separate Collective Labour Agreements with the power company.

NAACIE represents junior but key employees in the vital transmission and distribution, generation and clerical departments while GPSU bargains for junior and senior managers- a total of 1,000 workers.

Joseph said the request for joint negotiations dates back to November 15, 2013 was not unique because unions representing workers at other companies have come together to bargain with management.

Joseph said his union and GPSU would negotiate separately for wages, salaries, fringe benefits and travel allowances but there were “numerous common conditions” on which they share identical positions.

Yarde said different negotiations have in the past created disquiet between workers that are represented by different unions. “These grey areas we would like to have removed so whatever is applied is applied even-handedly,” he said.