“Both parties (Rubis and the JGRA) agreed, in the meantime, that the status quo governing the business relationships between Rubis and its dealers would remain unchanged,” a release by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining said yesterday.
The JGRA, in its compromise, agreed to suspend protest action pending the outcome of Government’s intervention in the matter, while Rubis agreed to withdraw the imposition of the new terms imposed on its dealers, which were scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015.
The JGRA said in a release yesterday that, following meetings with the minister and Rubis, Paulwell agreed to act as mediator in the matter and he is to meet again with Rubis on January 9, 2015 to continue mediation.
All current arrangements with Rubis and its dealers are to remain unchanged during mediation, the release said.
“I’m pleased that there is a cessation on the part of Rubis to implement new contractual terms,” Paulwell told the Jamaica Observer after the meeting. “The agreement is that those that are already abiding by the new terms will continue, and those that have not signed on to it their situation has been preserved, so they will continue [as is],” the minister said.
He added: “We are going to be doing some other work in the period up to the 9th of January when I will again meet back with Rubis. During that time, I expect to get a detailed submission from the member council for Rubis dealers on the issues.”
The main issues of contention include:
* the full implementation of a new electronic payment system;
* revision of the franchise fees; and
* the application of a prepayment policy.
On Monday, members of the JGRA, demonstrated outside Rubis’ Rockfort headquarters in East Kingston in an effort to get the company to roll back the policies that gas retailers said will hurt franchise owners financially.
The placard-bearing demonstrators lined the both sides of the road, airing their grouse about the policies which they described as “unfair and unreasonable”. They had threatened to further protest action until Rubis decided to roll back the new policies.
Rubis dealers complained Monday that, in addition to an increase in franchise fees, they were being asked to make payments in US dollars, while fuel would have to be paid upfront payment in cash before petrol delivery, which they said would eliminate the credit system.
Retail manager for Rubis Raymond Samuels, in a release after the demonstration, dismissed claims that dealers are asked to pay franchise fees in US currency. He said that franchise fees were often indexed in US dollars, but that dealers were never required to pay in US dollars. “All franchise fees are invoiced and paid in Jamaican dollars,” the release said.
At the same time, Samuels said that the granting of credit to dealers would be considered on assessment.
JGRA President Leonard Green said Monday that the changes would negatively affect the dealers.
“The (Rubis) dealers will obviously not be able to survive under these terms. Our role is to protect Jamaican entrepreneurs and keep them in business and to protect the workers. Quite a lot of them are being exposed. In the event that their businesses fail, the workers are also exposed,” Green said, adding that trade unions which represent gas station employees were on board with the JGRA on the matter.
A Corporate Area Rubis dealer, who gave his name only as Robert, said that the company was already getting credit from the Jamaican Government, through Petrojam, which he said should be extended to franchise dealers. The majority of gas stations dealers, he said, are over 65, and purchasing petrol for cash would make it difficult for them to remain in business.