Militant union continues strike at central kitchen Grand Case

POSTED: 09/20/11 12:00 PM

President Gumbs dismisses union claims about inhumane working conditions

GRAND CASE, St. Martin – President Frantz Gumbs of the Collectivité d’Outre Mer de Saint Martin has dismissed claims by the militant UGTG-union about inhumane working conditions at the new central kitchen in Grand Case. In a statement issued yesterday, Gumbs said that he is “extremely surprised” about the account union representatives have given of the situation. Yesterday unionists blocked the road to the kitchen and prevented staff that was willing to work to enter the building. The action left about 5,000 school children without lunch.
There was an incident during which two workers received electrical shocks from appliances in the kitchen, but it is totally and evidently false to say that authorities refused to fix the problem thus far,” President Gumbs stated. “The workers concerned by the incident did not request any help from the union. The incident was dealt with adequately by management and it is considered a closed case. Those that came to work at 3 or 4 in the morning can attest to the fact that they volunteered to come to work at those early hours in the morning, out of love of the job and concern for the children who expected to be fed. Management at no time requested workers to come in earlier.”
Gumbs also dismissed claims that there was a gas leak in the kitchen. “The equipment has a security system that shuts it down as soon as the pressure is too low. The problem has been dealt with by the company that built the equipment. The involvement of the union cannot fix the problem. The authorities have the legal and moral obligation to fix it and will do so. The documents the union has requested could not have avoided any incident. The information given by the representatives of the Union is therefore totally misleading.”
A week ago, on Monday morning around eight thirty the union demanded a meeting with President Gumbs without prior notice. Because he had other engagements, Gumbs proposed to meet later in the afternoon. He noted that union-representatives did not ask permission to leave their work positions for the meeting. “They are to be considered having abandoned their work,” Gumbs stated.
After a preliminary meeting, parties agreed to meet again last Friday. But when the union showed up with its membership, Gumbs refused to meet them because he considered the strike illegal. “My whish and sincere intention, was to meet the representatives of the personnel, to go over the “accord”. I could not understand the necessity of the presence of the membership of the union, unless that membership did not trust its representatives,” the President stated, adding that maybe the union thought that physical pressure would be the key to success of any talks.
The accord the President refers to is a protocol the government signed with the unions on October 10 of last year.
Gumbs stressed in his statement that the new kitchen is a modern tool “that naturally takes a few days to be up and running normally. There is no means that such a complex tool could work perfectly from the first day. Most of the cooks do understand that.”
He dismissed claims that putting workers in different positions is illegal. “The President has all rights to reorganise the services of the Collectivité. The workers concerned where proposed new positions. Some of them have adopted an attitude of systematic refusal for reasons that are not clear to me.”
The President reiterated that he is willing to receive union representatives “at any time to go over the protocol of accord of October 2010. No strike is justified at this point in time.”
Gumbs stated that he will not meet with UGTG-representatives (Générale des Travailleurs de Guadeloupe) as long as there is a blockade at the kitchen.

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