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Tribunal Looms for LUCELEC/CSA Impasse

THE Civil Service Association (CSA) and St. Lucia Electricity Services (LUCELEC) may be heading to a Labour Tribunal to settle outstanding matters that came to a head this week and which impacted on operations within the company.

“Our operations have been impacted. Our Vieux Fort and Soufriere offices were not open this week, since Tuesday. We have been serving customers from Rodney Bay. The technical division in particular has been impacted. We are running our operations on minimal numbers,” said LUCELEC’s Corporate Communications Manager, Roger Joseph.

Both sides yesterday spoke of their readiness to settle their differences before a tribunal, moreso the CSA which says it has a good case to present.

“We are (prepared) if the matter has to go before a tribunal. The Labour Code speaks to a specific process once one party states it has a grievance, which the CSA said it did,” Joseph said, adding that LUCELEC has always fully abided by and cooperated with the process.

“We feel we have a case,” said CSA’s Acting General Secretary, Mac Stephen Aubertin.

The outstanding matters that came to a head this week have their origins in the 2011-2013 triennium negotiations where misunderstandings erupted over certain aspects of the implementation of a grade structure for line workers represented by the CSA, namely grades one, two and three.

There also seems to be misunderstandings over whether issues arising from the 2011–2013 triennium, other than the grade structure, were agreed to.

Those matters went unsettled over the years in some part due to the upheavals within the CSA which saw a new faction emerging from that body calling itself ‘Save Our Union’. These disturbances within the CSA were on numerous fronts, such as the power struggle within its ranks that featured the ‘Save Our Union’ team and the executive at the time headed by present Health Minister, Mary Isaac. Also causing delays were confrontations with the Government Negotiations Team (GNT) over salary negotiations for government workers.

The pent-up tensions at LUCELEC blew up this week when a substantial number of grades one, two and three workers called in sick on Tuesday.

The situation disintegrated further when the company realized that the sickness spell also affected grades four, five, six and seven workers, including supervisory and middle management staff.

The CSA has not called this a sickout, which is a strong-arm measure used by trade unions to show their might should employers be less than reasonable during negotiations. Neither has LUCELEC called this a sickout.

“We received quite a few medical certificates from employees who said they were sick,” Joseph said.

Neither side has linked the large number of sick employees to the impasse they face. LUCELEC, however, explained that while it cannot connect the two at present, it is actively engaged in negotiations with two trade unions (the National Workers Union (NWU) being the other) which represent supervisory and middle management staff.

The CSA and LUCELEC met Monday but that meeting did not go down well as a proposal put forward by the former was rejected by the latter, which described the offer as “ridiculous”.

“We had a meeting with the CSA on Monday. Yes, we put a proposal before them and they asked for additional details,” Joseph said.

Another meeting was called the following day with officials from the Ministry of Labour to which the CSA, via letter, informed the Labour Commissioner of its inability at the time to attend. LUCELEC, however, attended claiming to have come to the meeting with the additional details the CSA sought.

The Employers Federation has joined forces with the Labour Department and the Ministry of Labour to see if it could unblock or produce some level of progress to the deadlock the two parties are in.

Meanwhile, despite the troubles brewing within the electricity company, electricity supply to customers this week has not been interrupted.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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