The dispute over salary increases between Republic Bank (Grenada) Ltd and the Bank and General Workers Union (BGWU) is expected to end today (Friday), when both parties sign off on the terms of an agreement reached on Tuesday.
Once that is done, the 150 unionised staff would be expected to return to work on Monday (July 24) after being away from the job for three weeks.
The Bank in a July 21 news release informed that following Tuesday’s mediation meeting before the Minister of Labour, Senator the Hon Claudette Joseph, both parties agreed in principle to a 10.25% salary increase over four years distributed as follows; 1.5%x1.5%x3.5%x3.75%.
A key element of the agreement is “a good will payment up to a maximum of 12 days base salary to workers who lost salary as a result of their participation in strike action.”
The Bank said it “looks forward to receiving from the Union on Friday July 21, 2023 as promised, a signed copy of the letter which reflects the terms of agreement between parties and the return to work of all staff on Monday July 24, 2023.”
On Tuesday morning, ahead of the mediation meeting, president of the BGWU Joseph Mitchell led the workers on a march through Saint George’s.
The march, which was joined by members of the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) in solidarity, followed the Union’s rejection of the Bank’s previous revised offer, as stated in a July 14 letter to the union.
In a July 17 news release, the Bank informed that the new offer, “without prejudice settlement” is “9.25% for the period January 01, 2020 to December 31, 2023.” The Bank said that “this offer when compounded with the Bank’s pay for performance merit arrangements takes the pay-out to members of the bargaining unit on average to 16.23%, well over the 12.25% that the Minister had tabled.”
Merit increases are added to the individual employees’ base salaries annually, based on an employee’s performance during the financial year. Such sums when taken together with the negotiated economic increase secured by the Union, are funded by the Bank as the employees’ total cash compensation, the Bank explained.
However, the Union in a July 17 news release explained that it rejected that offer because “the Merit system is solely based on performance, which is controlled by RBGL. As a result, the majority of staff members do not qualify for a salary increase under this system. The Bank at its own discretion changes the criteria for qualification, making it difficult for workers to benefit from this.”
The Union went on to note its initial request was a “15% increase over three years but it accepted the Minister’s recommendation of a 12.25% increase over four years, demonstrating our willingness to
compromise and reach an agreement that would be fair and mutually beneficial.” However, regrettably, RBGL has rejected the Minister’s recommendation and increased their offer from 6.25% to 9.25% over four years. “We find this offer inadequate, considering the significant rise in the cost of living,” the union said.
The Bank in its release, noted that since the start of the industrial action, it has “revisited its 6.25% offer twice, noting that its initial offer was “based on current market data, aligned to comparative salary increases in the financial services sector for the corresponding period.”
Meanwhile, the BGWU has received solidarity from yet another union -the Public Workers Union (PWU), who via a news release noted the “significant spike” in cost of living. Therefore, it regarded the Bank’s offer of “paltry increases” as “bothering on unconscionable.”
The PWU, in noting that the BGWU has demonstrated “enormous patience and fortitude” throughout the negotiations, called on the Bank to place a “respectable offer on the table.”
GTAWU president and president of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC) Andre Lewis, who made his presence felt by the workers, questioned the bank’s failure to accept the Minister’s “conservative” recommendation, stressing that “the workers are working for much less than they were working for in 2019 given the increase in cost of living.”
In all this, customers of the Bank were negatively impacted as limited services are provided at certain branches while others remain closed.
One customer expressed her disgust in a recent radio call-in programme, to access monies from the ATMs on the Western side. “How am I supposed to access my funds if I don’t have money to pay bus to get to Saint George’s. Republic Bank needs to do better, they owe their customers that…it’s my money I do not have to fight to access my money…I cannot be playing bingo or lotto with a teller machine to get my funds…I expect better from Republic Bank,” she said.