Labour Minister Gives Report on Status of GB Power Union Talks

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Pictured from left are Anthony Lopez, Vice President of Finance, Grand Bahama Power Company, E.O. Ferrell, President & CEO Grand Bahama Power Company, Sen. the Hon. Dion Foulkes, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Labour, Key Knowles, President CEWU and Pedro Edwards, President BIEMSU. (Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)

By Simon Lewis

FREEPORT – Minister for Labour and Maritime Affairs, the Hon. Dion Foulkes said Thursday that talks are progressing between management of the Grand Bahama Power Company and the two unions representing workers at the company.

Mr. Foulkes met with representative of the Commonwealth Electrical Workers Union, the Bahamas Industrial Electrical Managerial Service Union and executive management of the Grand Bahama Power Company for several hours Thursday at the Office of The Prime Minister in Freeport.

With this being his first official visit to Grand Bahama for the year, Mr. Foulkes said he found it necessary to update residents and the country on what he termed a “protracted labour negotiation.”

“These negotiations stated almost three years ago and I am very pleased to announce today that we are making progress.  The progress is not as fast and as quick as I wished, but we are making steady progress in terms of ironing out some of the contentious issues in these negotiations,” he said.

He advised that they are currently addressing two main points brought forth by both unions which call for an agreement wherein members of the Grand Bahama Power Company can opt for early retirement or an exit package.

According to the Minister, they are at the stage of working on the final details of that arrangement and are very hopeful.

“We should reach some conclusion on this matter, if not today, in the very, very near future,” he said.

Another matter involved a salary package for the CEWU. Mr. Foulkes said there are two offers on the table for consideration.

“There is some separation between the company and the union but we hope to bring them closer together today. I cannot say that I am optimistic that we will settle that issue today, but it will be very good if both parties move a little bit closer together with respect to the salary treatment,” he stated.

Touching on the managerial union, the BIEMSU, Minister Foulkers informed that they are in current negotiations with the company on matters relating to their Industrial Contract.

Continuing, he said that as Minister of Labour, “I am very pleased with the tenor of the talks this morning.  I think they have been very constructive and they have been very mature and very fruitful.”

BIEMSU President Pedro Edwards thanked Minister Foulkes for stepping in and moving the talks forward.

“As he said the talks are positive and we are looking forward to continuing these talks and bringing this matter to a speedy conclusion,” he said.

CEWU President Mr. Keith Knowles also thanked the Minister for his efforts and said all they want is some positive results and something that both sides can live with.

Grand Bahama Power Company’s President and CEO E.O. Ferrell, III said “I too would like to thank the Minister for getting us together today. I have been pleased with the talks.  There is been a lot of energy and I think folks are interested in solving this.

“It is important that we resolve it and that the fine employees of the Grand Bahama Power Company can continue to provide safe reliable service to the consumers on this island and continue to prepare for the growth of the island,” he stated.