The state-owned holding company – the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) – on December 31, 2020 fired, without the hint of warning, approximately sixty (60) workers who were employed by the company at Wales Estate. The workers were mainly engaged in providing security as well as other labouring tasks. The sudden termination dumbfounded the workers who were completely unprepared for the bombshell announcement.
The workers, during last year, had approached the GAWU to speak on their behalf. The Union on November 06, 2020 applied to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB) seeking to be recognised as their bargaining agent. Following receipt of our application, the TURCB approved the conduct of a survey, in keeping with the Trade Union Recognition Act. The survey sought to determine whether the GAWU enjoyed the workers support. Attempts to commence the survey were short-circuited by the NICIL which, on two (2) occasions, did not turn up for meetings organized by the TURCB to commence the process. Subsequently, NICIL, by letter of December 11, 2020, wrote the TURCB seeking to commence the process, strikingly, on December 31, 2020. The Board, having considered the letter, had acquiesced to the request.
But as hindsight has now revealed, it appeared, that the letter was, seemingly, a deliberate ploy to thwart the workers attempt to secure a union of their choice. The actions of NICIL brings back painful memories for the Union which faced similar challenges as it confronted the plantocracy in seeking recognition on behalf of the field and factory workers in the sugar industry. It is unbelievable, for us that in this 21st century workers must still face such travails to secure union recognition. Worse yet such actions are initiated by a company that is owned by the State.
The GAWU, earlier this morning, wrote TURCB Chairman, Dr N.K. Gopaul to apprise him of the developments. In our correspondence, we pointed out that the actions of the NICIL are in grave contravention of the Trade Union Recognition Act. Moreover, we noted that the Act has identified such conduct as criminal and we sought the Board’s immediate intervention to apprehend the matter and ensure that the workers rights are upheld.
The Union finds the actions of NICIL to be deeply disturbing. For the workers, given the depression that has gripped Wales since the estate was closed at the end of 2016, it represented a cherished source of sustenance. We are aware of the efforts of the incumbent Administration as they seek to breathe life back into the former estate communities and the actions of the state-owned holding company, in our view, serves to gravely undermine those efforts.