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ECGC fires union executive members

The Herald, 14 August 2000

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent - The St. Vincent-based East Caribbean Group of Companies (ECGC) has fired seven workers six of who are executive members of the recently-formed ECGC Workers Union.

Six of those workers were served with letters of immediate dismissal when they reported for work Thursday after a two-day break during which they had called in sick.

The company, with headquarters located at Campden Park about 10 minutes drive from the capital Kingstown, did not state a reason for the dismissal but, Alban Gonsalves, chairman of the union Friday told the Caribbean News Agency that it was an attempt by management to get rid of the union "We registered a union and the union is legally registered, the company is upset that we should not use their name in our union, from our own legal advice, we are told that once it's registered it is a legal union and we can continue with it," Gonsalves said from a picket line with his other dismissed colleagues while the company's General Manager Julian Ferdinand was meeting with other members of the ECGC Workers Union.

By midday, the sacked workers were joined by several other employees as the picket escalated, and the Labour Department confirmed that

Labour Commissioner Bernard Morgan had left by early afternoon for a meeting with the company's management.

On Tuesday and Wednesday around 50 supervisory and administrative staff who formed the new union to represent their interests at the company, called in sick, stalling milling operations at the flour, feeds and rice mills.

They complained about the employment of a Barbadian as head miller of the flour mill in preference to a junior member of the milling staff who was receiving further on-the-job training to fill the vacancy created when a senior miller went abroad to pursue further studies last year.

The workers claimed that while the company used the argument of lack of money not to promote workers or employ new staff, non-Vincentians are brought in to take up senior positions, given huge salaries and a range of allowances and do not produce.

But, Ferdinand Wednesday told CANA the workers were using the employment of Chetwyn Small who has been given a two year contract, as a scape goat.

Ferdinand was engaged in several meetings Thursday and was so far, unavailable to respond to the current situation which has been condemned by several callers to a morning radio call in programme.

The East Caribbean Group of Companies, in which government owns minority shares, also owns a rice milling operation CARICOM Rice

Mills in Guyana and has a shareholding in a poultry operation in Antigua.

The company exports some 70 per cent of its output, Ferdinand said.