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Prime Minister’s intervention averts national strike

A statement issued from the Office of the Prime Minister late on Thursday night said a deal had been brokered in the simmering dispute between the Grenada Breweries Limited (GBL), a member of the Trinidad-based regional conglomerate Ansa Mc AL, and its workers represented by the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU).

Prime Minister Thomas held separate meetings with union officials and representatives of the GBL after taking over mediation talks from Labour Minister Glynnis Roberts.

“The intervention of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has led to a breakthrough in the impasse between the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union and the management of the Grenada Breweries Limited (GBL),” according to the statement.

It did not provide details of the deal but labour officials say negotiations between the GBL and the union will resume on Friday.

TAWU had warned that it was prepared to escalate the weeklong strike action to include key sectors of the economy, leading to a national shutdown ahead of the bush Christmas season.

“The expansion of industrial action is not in anyone’s interest, especially at this season” Prime Minister Thomas said.

“I took the decision, after negotiations had broken down, to engage both sides to resolve this matter and I am pleased that an agreement has been reached,” he added.

The issue escalated on Wednesday when riot police clashed with workers, who were also protesting the arrest of their union president Chester Humphrey on charges of obstruction and failure to comply with a police order.

The Grenada government said it “did not authorise, advise nor did it attempt to influence” the Special Services Unit (SSU) and Prime Minister Thomas said that his administration respects “the independence of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) to make decisions in the interest of upholding law and order in Grenada”.

Humphrey has denounced the action of the police.

“We have not yet turned off the lights…the power,” said Humphrey who was detained on Tuesday at the height of industrial drama and will appear in court January 25 to answer charges of obstruction and failure to comply with a police order.

“What happened changes the complexity of the whole situation. Make no mistake about it this is a fight between capital and labour and those who wield state power have already decided where they stand.” he told reporters.

GBL workers are demanding a seven per cent salary increase, but the company, which is part of the Trinidad-based regional conglomerate Ana McAL, is offering a 2.7 per cent wage hike.

The group’s chairman and chief executive officer Andrew Sabga is due here from Trinidad on Friday for talks with the union on the new wage agreement.

During the talks on Thursday, TAWU agreed to end the blockade of the company’s premises and allow for vehicles to start distributing beverages to the various restaurants and other areas on the island.

But the protesting workers are not returning immediately on the factory floor.

The timetable as to when this will happen will be set at Friday’s meeting.

“I am pleased that good sense has prevailed and that this situation has come to an end,” the Prime Minister told reporters before embarking on a visit to the General Hospital to help cheer patients.

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