By Balford Henry, News Editor
ANOTHER LABOUR dispute which has developed at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) since last weekend is threatening to derail efforts by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Horace Dalley, to resolve the pay issues at the company.
The Gleaner understands that plans by Mr. Dalley to settle the effective date of the recent job evaluation exercise, as well as the issue of the company's proposal to limit basic rates to 50 per cent of the market range, may be derailed. Mr. Dalley is scheduled to meet company representatives and the Bustamante Industrial Trades Union (BITU) and the National Workers' Union (NWU), which represent the company's clerical and hourly-paid workers, at 10 o'clock this morning at his Ministry.
But, talks between the JPSCo and the Union of Technical Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP), which represents the workers at the power plants, also suffered a setback yesterday. The parties had planned to continue talks on a new wage contract, but UTASP said that it would not resume the negotiations until the expatriate workers are removed from the power plants.
JPSCo's communications manager, Winsome Callum, confirmed last night that the talks were unable to deal with the wage issue, as UTASP insisted that the expatriates must be removed prior to any further discussions.
The three unions have described the company's decision to train 14 American expatriate workers from its parent company, Mirant, at the Hunts Bay and Old Harbour plants, as "union busting".
A source at the Ministry confirmed yesterday that they were aware of the issue and had been speaking with both the company and the unions, however, there was no sign of a resolution last night.
General Secretary of UTASP, Reg Ennis, told The Gleaner yesterday that his members would not work alongside the expatriates, as of this morning.
"We don't expect to see them at the plants tomorrow. They should be out by tomorrow morning, or our members will leave," Mr. Ennis said last night.
In a release on Tuesday, the JPSCo said that it had expedited a joint training programme involving personnel from Mirant business units throughout the United States, against the background of last week's interruptions in electricity supply to customers which resulted from industrial action by employees.
"In response to the threat to its operations posed by the industrial action last week, the company was forced to implement its contingency plan, which involved the mobilisation of a team of 14 experienced power plant operators to assist in maintaining service to its customers," the JPSCo said.
"The JPSCo employees who had taken industrial action returned to work after the Mirant workers were mobilised. In light of this, the company has now moved to take advantage of the opportunity to expedite a joint training programme, which was started last year when 15 JPSCo employees were sent to work at Mirant's operations in Maryland, Texas, Michigan, Washington D.C. and Atlanta," the company said.
JPSCo president and CEO, Charles Matthews, said that last week's outages, which resulted from the lack of personnel to operate the power stations, showed the value of the cross-training programme. However, he said that it was not intended to replace any JPSCo workers.
"The possibility of interruptions in service to customers, as a result of the industrial action last week, heavily influenced the decision to expedite the second phase of the programme, which focuses on the orientation of other Mirant operators to JPSCo's facilities. This programme is not intended to replace any of JPSCo's workers, as all the Mirant employees are fully employed at their respective plants," he said.