Increasing electricity rates could return GPL to profitability, allow for wage hike – Union says
By Kurt Campbell
The workers’ representative body for employees at the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) continues to push back against the company’s refusal to pay salary increases for 2021, a position that has been grounded in the company’s indebtedness.
At the end of Thursday, there was another meeting between GPL, the union and representatives from the Ministry of Labour but no decision was reached on those salary increase for which the union demands a seven per cent acoss the board.
An executive member of the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) told the News Room after the meeting that the union is strong in its view that GPL should consider a tariff increase to get itself out of debt and also pay workers their demand increase.
The union has made it clear that if by the next meeting slated for the end of January a decision cannot be reached, action will be escalated to put pressure on the executive management and consequently the Board and lone shareholder – the government.
The last time GPL recorded a profit was in 2016. The union representative said GPL has been using that profit to stay afloat as it sinks itself further into debt with remedial fixes of cutting back and shifting.
At a December 2021 press conference, Chief Executive Officer Bharat Dindyal said the company could not afford any increase because it was challenged by both losses and debts.
But the union believes there is a fix and it is by increasing tariffs. The last time tariffs were increased was in 2013.
According to the NAACIE representative, management explained and produced a summary of records to support its claims that it cannot support the requested increase at the meeting on Thursday.
But management has also been submitting to Board, the government as a shareholder and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as the regulator a Return Certificate following the auditing of financial statements on a yearly basis.
That certificate defines the company’s dire financial position as one that is unsustainable and recommends an increase in tariffs.
“They may not want to take the idea of tariff movement as a means of fixing this issue of moving from the red to the green,” the NAACIE member said.
The Parliament recently approved a request by the government for a $4 billion pay out to GPL but the News Room understands that even when that cash is transferred to the company’s account, they will still be in a $10 billion debt.
GPL has reportedly approached banking institutions to increase its overdraft limit.
“It is very dire so the union listened to all of this and we are at the crossroad where we have to hear from the main shareholder and the Board of Directors.”
The position of the union remains the same and they have not shifted the goal post from its requested seven per cent increase.
“We are ready to go the full nine yards.”
The News Room understands that while a three-year collective labour agreement was previously being addressed, the discussions now are only focused on increases for 2021.
It was only in May 2021 that GPL paid a five per cent salary increase for 2020 in keeping with an agreement reached with NAACIE.
The increase amounted to some $200 million. According to that agreement, the five per cent is regarded as a full and final settlement of all claims for increases in remuneration for the year 2020.
Then, the two sides had agreed to urgently consider the proposals for a revised Collective Labour Agreement for the period 2021 – 2023.