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Solidarity strike causes utility disruption

Antigua Sun, 25 May 2000

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada (CANA) - A solidarity strike in Grenada on Wednesday disrupted the operations of the country's key utility companies, utility company and union officials admitted on Wednesday.

Hundreds stopped working effectively slowing down service provided by the island's lone power company, water company as well as Cable & Wireless.

Also a skeleton staff comprising mainly of management officials is keeping the General Post Office and the main seaport in St. George's functioning.

"We are not of the same level of service as we would normally be, a large number of the workers at the Port Authority has responded to that strike," Port Manager Ambrose Phillip told CANA.

There are reports, too, that the ground handling staff were among workers at the Point Salines International Airport who have withdrawn their labour.

Technical and Allied Workers Union leader Chester Humphrey said the response to the sympathy strike had been successful.

"The response has been absolutely amazing. The workers showed that they have the resolve to struggle and to offer their solidarity.

"LIAT workers have just walked off the job, which means the two main international flights today will be disrupted if not cancelled altogether," Humphrey said.

The workers who are members of TAWU have downed tools in response to a call from the union for a sympathy strike in support of 28 striking workers of the Grenada Broadcasting Network.

Manager of GRENLEC Nigel Waddle said the company was disappointed at the action taken.

"We enjoy a good working relationship with the Technical and Allied Workers Union. This is not a dispute that affects GRENLEC. We are an essential service and obviously we are disappointed in the action taken," Waddle said.

The GBN workers walked off the jobs over a month ago to protest the state of negotiations over a new contract, but the management was referring to them as former employees on the grounds they abandoned their jobs.

The Conference of Churches who had been mediating in the dispute, released a statement, Wednesday, calling for the immediate reinstatement of the workers and the resumption of talks between TAWU and management.

A statement from the Prime Minister's office Wednesday afternoon expressed support for the Conference of Churches? proposal.

"We wait not on the company. If the company accepts it well then there is a temporary respite and we go back around the bargaining table. If there is no respite, the union will definitely broaden the strike," Humphrey added.

TAWU is now threatening to widen the solidarity strike by calling out more private sector workers to withdraw their labour if GBN management refuses to reinstate the workers.