Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Dalley to decide JPSCo issue today

Jamaica Gleaner
published: Monday | December 9, 2002

By Balford Henry, News Editor

MINISTER OF Labour and Social Security, Horace Dalley, is expected to make a decision today on the pay dispute at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo), which has been threatening normal electricity supply since late November.

The Minister seems likely to refer the matter to a special tribunal, representing the Ministry, the company and the two unions currently involved in conciliatory talks he has been chairing since November 28 at the Ministry the Bustamante Industrial Trades Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU). But, but that will depend on whether he can get the parties to agree to the names of at least two persons likely to comprise the three-man panel.

There is also the issue of whether the special tribunal would deal with one dispute, that of the company's proposal to limit basic pay to its workers to a percentage of the market range, or both disputes, the other being the date of implementation of the recent job evaluation exercise.

The Ministry seems confident that it will able to hammer out an agreement between the parties, on the issue of the effective date of the payments from the job evaluation. The company had proposed January, 2002 while the unions were insisting on January, 2001. The more crucial issue, that of the basic pay arrangement, seem destined to go to arbitration. But, The Gleaner understands that while the company may be willing to compromise on the retroactive date issue, it would only do so as part of a full settlement of all issues.

If the Minister is unable to get agreement on the special tribunal from the unions and the company today, he is expected to refer the matter directly to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT), which would appoint one of its panels to deal with it. However, arbitration by the IDT could take much longer than by a special tribunal.

On Friday, Mr. Dalley met with the company, as well as the BITU and the NWU, and allowed all the parties to air their positions and make their responses without much success. He gave them an ultimatum to report back to him by noon today, after which he is expected to make his decision.

The Supreme Court has granted the Minister a 30-day injunction against any industrial action by unionised workers at the company, which could disrupt electricity supply, and Mr. Dalley has been making an effort to have the matter resolved within that timeframe.

In the meantime, the unions have accepted a response from the Ministry of Labour that the 14 expatriate workers from the United States currently being trained at Hunts Bay and Old Harbour were granted an exemption from requiring a work permit which expires on December 16. The 14 workers from the JPSCo's parent company, Mirant's US plants, are expected to leave by next Monday.

The JPSCo had said that it had expedited a joint training programme involving personnel from Mirant business units throughout the US, against the background of the recent interruptions in electricity supply to customers which resulted from some of its unionised workers withdrawing their services.

The company said that in response to the threat to its operations posed by the industrial action, it was forced to implement its contingency plan, which involved the mobilisation of the team of 14 experienced power plant operators to assist in maintaining service to its customers.