The impasse between the Technical & Allied Workers Union representing workers at the Grenada Breweries and the company’s management has ended with the Union accepting a 9% salary increase over three years and a decision to have the workers return to work on Wednesday morning.
The end to this standoff which started in December last year, came just after midnight on Monday night, with parties signing the final agreements in the presence of Labour Minister Glynnis Roberts on Tuesday.
The workers’ salary increase will be retroactive June 1st 2011. They will get 3% for 2011; 3% for 2012 and 3% for 2013.
As part of the agreement reached, workers would receive a lump sum of 8-months pay plus 6-months profit-sharing at the previous rate of 7% and the next six month at a rate of approximately 4%.
Union leader Chester Humphrey says it was a long hard struggle.
“As you know, it has been a difficult struggle; the lock-out has ended and the workers will all be reinstated tomorrow,” Humphrey told the media on Tuesday afternoon following a meeting with the Breweries Workers, held jointly by the Union, the Breweries management with representatives from the Grenada Conference of Churches present.
Humphrey said the union had to concede on a number of issues including the profit-sharing for the workers, but didn’t elaborate.
“Overall we can anticipate that workers will, at the end of it all, go home with approximately eleven months pay,” Humphrey told reporters.
“There has been an adjustment to the profit-sharing formula; an adjustment which was in place in 1991, in which the profits were based on a percentage of share-capital. That has now been shifted to shareholders equity.”
Lead negotiator for the company Patrick Antoine admits that the negotiations which dragged on for over two months were carried out in a very tense environment. He says this was so primarily because of all that was at stake for both the company and the Union.
“The negotiations were carried out in a very tense environment because there were several important issues at stake both for the union and the company at this time.”
“The company had a number of issues that it felt needed rebalancing. It is not unusual for the union, having those in old agreements to feel that they should be retained,” Antoine said.
Antoine told local media that despite not being able to achieve all their targets for the negotiation, the Company is satisfied with the outcome.
“At the end of the day we had a compromise…where neither the Company nor the Union achieved its full negotiating agenda.”
“We achieved sufficient to reach an agreement and the Union gave up, as it were, some of the old provisions regarding profit sharing…and we also entered territory which we did not intend to enter in relation to wages.”
Workers were generally relieved that the standoff was over and that no one was laid off.
Shop Steward Randolph Johnson said the two months was a very tense and emotional period for many, as many of the workers were not able to meet their monthly commitments.
“It has been quite a challenge; it has been very emotional as well because…people have one source of income and that was hindered for over the past two months….so that has been quite a challenge…it has been tough.”
Speaking about the actual negotiation process Johnson said he believes it may have the been the toughest that the Union has ever encountered, but he is satisfied that at the end of the day, no worker was laid off..
“Given the process and the way it ran, I have to say, to end up where no one actually lost their job, is very satisfying for me,” Johnson said.
Chief Shop Steward Glen Douglas said he anticipates a bit of uneasiness going back into the work place after being in what he describes as the battle field for the last two months. But he says he hopes that things can return to normal at the shortest possible time.
“It’s a kind of edgy situation to be honest. I’m not going to tell you that the transition going to be easy…but we all were in it together, workers, managers and everybody going to be edgy. I think it would be a testing time for us. We’ll take it one day at a time and in a few weeks we will forget that we were outside,” said Glen Douglas Chief Shops Steward.
The workers were locked out by the company for two months in December, following a one week strike which stemmed from a breakdown in wage negotiations.
During the two months that the workers were not permitted on the compound, they were not being paid by the company. However the Union has refused to answer questions as to whether the company would pay the workers. They have also asked workers not to raise the issue when they return to work on Wednesday, stating that the matter would be addressed in an appropriate manner at the right time.©