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(PRESS RELEASE) – The Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA) has taken note of the recent press statements made by LUCELEC relating to the ongoing dispute with the company.
In the interest of ensuring that the public and other interested parties are not misled, the CSA would like to present its view so that everyone concerned can judge for themselves. The following facts must be noted:
1. This dispute relating to the Grade Structure has been ongoing for more than five years.
2. The parties concluded negotiations in May 2013 and signed off on the details of their Agreement as negotiated.
3. LUCELEC submitted the draft Collective Agreement to the Labour Commissioner for signature and at that stage the CSA discovered a discrepancy. The 15 point grade structure which had been agreed to was omitted from Schedule 2 to the Agreement.
4. This started a series of exchanges including meetings and correspondence between the parties in an effort to find a resolution, without success.
5. The CSA and the employees have made efforts to settle the dispute at every level of the bargaining and grievance processes including conciliation with the Labour Commissioner, mediation with the Labour Minister and arbitration before the Tribunal. At every stage when we believe we have reached a solution, LUCELEC has taken action which circumvented a mutual settlement.
6. LUCELEC has made two offers ($ 750,000 and $ 1.1 million) to the employees and on both occasions did not provide the information requested by the CSA and employees by way of explanation to substantiate how the figure had been determined.
7. At the latest sitting of the tribunal LUCELEC admitted that information provided to the CSA in the past was inaccurate.
8. At the last sitting of the Tribunal LUCELEC finally presented figures which the CSA has accepted as being a fair representation of what was required to populate the grade structure.
9. LUCELEC through their legal representative has since written a six-page letter to the Tribunal which in the view of the CSA once again seeks to derail the process and circumvent the outcome which they anticipate will not be favourable to them.
10. As far as the retirement age is concerned the Tribunal provided a ruling which indicated that the retirement age is 65 in accordance with the NIC Act; LUCELEC has indicated its intention to seek a judicial review.
11. The transition of the retirement age began in 2002 and was progressively increased overtime to 65 in 2015.
12. LUCELEC and other employers had sufficient time to make the necessary adjustments to be compliant with the law of the land.
13. CSA acknowledges that LUCELEC is free to pursue its right to object and seek judicial review; however, the CSA strongly believes that as a “caring” company LUCELEC should exercise greater empathy for the plight of the retired persons who have been disadvantaged by their actions.
14. Twenty (20) former employees who have been forced to retire and are being paid reduced pensions by NIC because they are considered as having taken early retirement.
15. In addition, some of those persons have been denied their right to work and are facing financial hardship as a result of being out of work.
These are the pertinent facts of the matter.
In our view LUCELEC has not acted in Good Faith and has used its extensive resources to fight against the lower level employees while adequately rewarding Management staff. A recent payoff of millions to 30 high employees must be compared to its reluctance to settle the outstanding amounts due to the 150 Grade I staff which will amount to a fraction of what was recently paid.
LUCELEC is guaranteed a profit by Law and operates as the lone power company in the state which in effect is a monopoly. In the court of public opinion, the Board and Management of LUCELEC is guilty of corporate greed and have been using the substantial resources at its disposal to hire legal expertise to avoid doing what is just and fair.
To reiterate, the CSA has done everything under the law in furtherance of this dispute. We therefore expect that the Tribunal will make its ruling without further delay so as to bring closure to this long outstanding matter and to bring relief to these hard working Grade 1 employees.