Thursday, February 17, 2005

Opposition express support for workers in AquaGib dispute

GSLP/Libs have expressed their support for the striking workers at AquaGib and the stand taken by the unions TGWU and Prospect in the dispute.

In a statement issued yesterday they say that the position adopted by the company is “totally unjustified,” arguing that the public sector differential settlement of 2001 offered by the company had been accepted by the workforce in good faith but was now not being honoured by AquaGib.

A GSLP/Libs spokesman said:

The Opposition has been provided with the details of the Union’s claim which is at the root of the AquaGib dispute and considers that on the basis of this information the position adopted by the Company is totally unjustified. It, therefore, supports the stand taken by the TGWU/ACTS and Prospect. It is regrettable that the workers have had to go on strike to pursue their claim and that inevitably the consumer has had to suffer the consequence of the workforce not being available to provide service.

The response of the Minister has been to say that he encourages the Company and the Union to settle the dispute. He seems to forget that the dispute is with him, since he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors that has rejected the claim of the Unions and precipitated the strike.

The position of the Board of Directors, which includes the Financial and Development Secretary as well as Mr Vinet, has been stated as being as follows:

* that the Company does not accept and has never accepted a direct link between the Company pay scales and the Government’s Industrial pay scales; and
* that the Company is prepared to meet the claim to maintain the differential with the Government from a current date, but that they can not afford to meet the retrospection because they are unable to raise revenue retrospectively.

The question of raising money to meet the cost of pay rises has never arisen in any previous pay review and consequently whether this applies from the current date or is back dated is irrelevant. As regards the situation of the Company, its accounts indicate that its profits increased in both 2003 and 2004. With reference to the link with Government’s rates of pay, the position, based on the documents provided to the Opposition, is that the Company accepted the restoration of the differential over Government’s rates of pay, which had existed in 1991 and had been eroded over the years, in the last settlement in 2001. Moreover, when the differentials were restored in 2001 the Company proposed that this relativity should be maintained in future years.

This settlement of the 2001 was accepted in good faith by the workforce in a ballot and the issue therefore is not that a link is now being claimed but that it was offered, accepted and has not been honoured. The so called “retrospection question” would not have arisen if the Company had made sure that the 2001 relativity had been maintained by increasing pay rates by reference to comparable grades in the Government service.

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