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Trade union pleads with PM to give up energy portfolio

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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THE Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE) is calling on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to give up the energy portfolio, which it claims has been poorly managed for some time now.

UCASE General Secretary John Levy said Tuesday at the trade union's media luncheon at Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in New Kingston that Holness adding energy to his responsibilities at the Office of the Prime Minister, following the resignation of Dr Andrew Wheatley, has not helped to give the portfolio the attention it needs.

Levy said that the additional responsibility is “not sustainable” and called on Holness to “divest” himself from the energy portfolio.

“Find somebody competent, whether through the side door or the front door. [Is there] nobody in the House can deal with it? That kind of arrangement cannot continue. Every human being needs time to sleep and time to think and time to work. We believe that the prime minister has taken on a task at this time that is almost impossible for him to adequately pay attention to the issues,” said the trade unionist.

“...We are asking the prime minister to divest himself from the day-to-day responsibility of the energy portfolio at this point in time. It needs undivided attention and leadership and we believe that it is an unnecessary burden being placed at the doors of Jamaica House at this time,” added Levy.

The general secretary said that the call comes amid several requests for the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) to meet with the union as restlessness is at an all-time high among workers.

“The issue we are having with JPS is the whole negotiating process for wage and fringe benefits contractual arrangement. There are some other issues [with] the company. The company has displayed an attitude that we are not familiar with and it is causing discontent with the workers and might get worse. Sometimes you have to ask the minister responsible for the particular area to intervene to get matters resolved and you know we don't have that access right now to the prime minister and we don't have any designated person who we can speak to.

“When workers feel as if you know desperation is before them they will jump. We're trying to avoid all of that. In times gone we could contact the minister and say that 'Minister we are having a problem and it's getting out of hand. We're asking you to speak to the powers that be'. Right now it is very difficult to get any response in that regard,” Levy told the Jamaica Observer following the luncheon.

UCASE, led by veteran trade unionist Vincent Morrison, represents more than 400 staff members at JPS – technical, administrative, engineers, and accounting officers.

“At JPS nobody speaks to you above the manager level. The president and CEO does not speak to the union, and the board doesn't speak to the union. So you end up being tied up at the Ministry of Labour and IDT (Industrial Disputes Tribunal) with matters that you believe could have been resolved, but we getting a kind of push back from the JPS management that we have never seen before. It is going to lead to confrontation,” Levy warned.

“We believe that the energy sector needs attention at short notice, undivided attention, and we don't think that the prime minister has the time, based on the number of portfolios before him and the number of pressing matters that we know are in front of him,” he added.

The Office of the Prime Minister, in addition to energy, is also responsible for the environment, housing, water, land, science and technology.


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