SMCU wants to wrap up GEBE CLA talks by year end

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU) is hoping to wrap up its Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) talks with water and light company GEBE by the end of this year.

The CLA talks were halted following the passing of Hurricane Irma in September last year. The union is lobbying for a 2-per-cent salary increase for its roughly 100 plus members at GEBE. However, SMCU President Ludson Evers said the company is now claiming that it has financial issues and can only offer a one-time payment of two weeks salary to each staffer instead of a 2-per-cent salary hike.

The union is willing to accept the one-time payment, but wants parties to agree to adjust a clause in the CLA which gives GEBE the authority to determine on its own accord whether it can pay increases to staff members or not. The article in question in the CLA had been negotiated in the past. It states that after 2015, GEBE’s management has the authority to determine if it will provide an increase to workers or not. “Based on this article, management says they have financial issues and can only pay a one-time payment of two weeks payment.” The union also wants the company to provide audited financial statements to substantiate its claims of financial issues.

Evers said it’s hard to believe that a company that raked in a substantial profit in 2014, and NAf. 27 million in profit after taxes in 2015, is now in a financial bind. “It is impossible today, after Hurricane Irma, to now say that you cannot pay a salary increase in 2018 because of financial issues… We agree with the two-week lump sum, but we need to adjust that section in the CLA and we have to resume CLA negotiations.”

In addition to finalising the CLA talks by the end of 2018, SMCU also wants GEBE to agree to an employment freeze at the company for now, and wants GEBE to agree to conduct a manpower assessment, as well as a formation plan so that the company can know how many employees it needs. “GEBE cannot just continue to hire like crazy and create functions. They have to do a complete function evaluation for positions in GEBE because this was never done in the company before.”
SMCU plans to send a letter to GEBE outlining its wishes and is hoping for a positive response.

Source: The Daily Herald