Union concerned as NESol shutdown nears

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 18, 2019

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WITH just two weeks to go before National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol) is slated to shut down, the union representing workers at the State agency fears that entitlements may not be settled in time for the October 30 deadline.

General secretary of the Union of Technical Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP) St Patrice Ennis told the Jamaica Observer that this is a “real possibility”, since NESol did not reach an agreement with Government in the 2017-2021 public sector wage negotiations.

“I think every worker should be assured that we are going to make sure that we go through with a fine-tooth comb, to ensure that the workers' entitlement are dealt with in the most judicious way and that their heads of agreement is settled, and that nobody will end up leaving money on the table and have to come back — and that is a real possibility, because I don't know how we are going to do all the calculations and the heads of agreement has not been settled,” he stated.

Ennis noted that, along with the wage negotiations, there are other matters that are outstanding.

“We are in dialogue with MSET (Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology), [but] I don't believe we have necessarily discussed the redundancy exercise [fully]. While this has been on the horizon for some time, there is a lot more that could be happening there, and it is my concern that we need to be careful that we don't just stick to deadlines and numbers without making sure that the people's interests and concerns are taken care of.

“We are embarking on this process not to satisfy some metric, or some number that either the Government or the IMF (International Monetary Fund) want to achieve, the overall objective is to make sure that this redounds to the benefit of our people,” UTASP general secretary said.

He noted, too, that the close to 60 workers were last week issued letters of notification of redundancy. NESol was one of several agencies under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology that became embroiled in controversy over reported breaches of Government procurement guidelines.

Its principals were summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee last year, to answer questions. Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced in December that NESol would be shut down and its functions subsumed into the parent ministry, to address high overhead costs and resolve the questions of administrative failures that have been brought to the fore.

The deadline was pushed back from September 30 to the end of this month. Ennis said the MSET team, which is charged with the winding down process, is “trying”, but that the union is still uneasy.

“It is another moment of uncertainty for some... To be fair to the MSET team, information that they have asked for and so on, I don't know if the company has provided all the information, so they would need to do their work — but that is not the fault of the worker,” he pointed out.

Earlier this month, portfolio minister Fayval Williams disclosed that close to $100 million has been designated for redundancy payments related to staff cuts at NESoL and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica as part of a rationalisation programme.


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