May 15, 2009
GESCO workers upset over recruitment ads

Some workers at the General Equipment and Services Corporation (GESCO) have spent the last two weeks in a state of uncertainty and dissatisfaction.

The workers reportedly became upset after reading for the first time on Thursday, April 30th, 2009, an advertisement in the SEARCHLIGHT newspaper, which stated that The Roads, Buildings and General Services Authority (BRAGSA), is seeking to recruit suitably qualified persons to fill positions for jobs they believe they currently hold.{{more}}

This situation is said to have peeved the GESCO workers who claim that no one consulted them before the advertisement was placed in the newspaper.

When contacted on the issue on Monday, May 11th, Clem Ballah, Manager of GESCO, said everything has since been explained to the workers. He said GESCO had intended to make the announcement to the workers, but unfortunately this did not coincide with the recruitment announcement made by BRAGSA.

“We outlined to the workers the coming on stream of BRAGSA. Everything is settled,” said Ballah, adding “Admittedly, the advertisement went out before they (GESCO workers) were told.” Ballah further stated: “There is no need for them to be further unsettled. The people here, mostly, will have an advantage in getting a work with BRAGSA. So it is not a problem anymore.”

The BRAGSA advertisement invited persons employed with the Ministry of Transport and Works and GESCO to indicate their interest in the jobs available.

BRAGSA, a new statutory body, was established by the Government to facilitate the management and supervision of the construction and maintenance of roads, buildings, seawalls, jetties, and similar public infrastructure, the maintenance of rivers, the stone crushing, quarrying and construction operations and other related services of the Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

General Secretary of the Commercial and Technical Allied Workers Union Lloyd Small when contacted accused GESCO and the Ministry of Transport and Works of showing disrespect to the workers and to the union.

“They haven’t had any consultation with the union,” said Small, while explaining that his union represents 300 to 400 employees at the Ministry of Transport and Works and GESCO.

Small said that in 2008, the CTAW met with the Sub-Committee in charge of establishing the new statutory body and was invited to an April 2, 2009, meeting with the Public Service Union. He said that this meeting was rejected since the CTAW did not have a joint sectorial agreement with the PSU to represent the workers.

Since the announcement of the vacancies, Small said the CTAWU has written a letter to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) Andreas Wickham requesting an urgent meeting, but up until this week, the union had not received a response. He said the union has also had a meeting with both the MTW and GESCO workers.

Some GESCO employees told SEARCHLIGHT that they had not seen any representative of the CTAWU in almost three years and were surprised when they turned up. Small refuted this claim.

“That’s not true. We just had a meeting with GESCO last year. We are not as frequent as before due to the demand of service,” said Small, explaining that the CTAWU has to balance its work.

He said the union prioritizes job security at this stage.

“The most important thing is not increases. Days are gone when unions took an adversarial position with employers,” said Small.

BRAGSA is slated to officially commence its operations on July 1, 2009. It is being managed by Engineer Brian George, who has successfully led more than one government project.