Marigot:--- Workers of the newly opened state of the art kitchen (Cuisine Central) blocked the entrance of the building early Monday morning as they continued their protest action. The kitchen workers claim they are protesting against the deplorable working conditions at the new state of the art kitchen which was opened in August 2011.
A truck, and several other vehicles were parked at the immediate entrance while garbage bins were also placed in the middle of the road as the workers stood guard at the main entrance of their job site.
The workers left their jobs on Friday and went to the Collectivity of Saint Martin where they were seeking to meet with President Frantz Gumbs and Caisse Territorial des Oeuvres Scolaires (CTOS) President Carenne Mills but both elected officials refused to meet with the workers on Friday which sparked Monday's blockage leaving over 5000 students without lunch. Parents were called during the midday hours on Monday to pick up their children since there was no food at the schools to feed them.
Nicole Whit of the UCT/UGTG union said the union representatives have been discussing with the Collectivity since June this year and their requests are not being honored. She explained that was the reason the workers and members of the union decided that they wanted to be part of the next meeting.
President Frantz Gumbs who was interviewed by Air Supply on Radio St. Martin on Monday morning said he refused to meet with the workers but was prepared to meet with the Union representatives as was planned earlier. President Gumbs said he had scheduled a meeting with the technical staff and the CTOS President but at no time he was prepared to meet with 30 to 40 workers.
When asked if he was willing to meet with the workers on Monday President Gumbs said unless the workers clear the entrance and call off their actions he will not meet with them. The President also said Monday's action taken by the union and its members was illegal since the Union did not send in a "pre-avis de greve" to the Collectivity notifying them that they were going to begin industrial action.
The President also acknowledged that the Cuisine Central might be state of the art with new equipments but the kitchen he said was functional but not in optimal condition. Gumbs said that he is fully aware of the difficulties that the workers are facing and the CTOS was dealing with the issues. According to Nicole Whit and other staff members of the Cuisine Central, the appliances were giving out electrical shocks. President Gumbs said that the electrical shocks only occurred once and it was immediately dealt with. On Friday, President Gumbs told SMN News that the shocking came from the air conditioning system which takes as much as three days to build up. President Gumbs said that the electrical problem was immediately fixed when they were made aware of it. The President said on Radio St. Martin that there was no gas leak at the Cuisine Central instead he said the gas pressure was too low and that was shutting down everything since it's on an automated system. President Gumbs made clear that while the kitchen was not fully optimal the workers could have cooked for the students.
During the actions on Monday a truck was seen at the location transporting cooking gas to the Cuisine Central. The workers said had they not protested authorities would not have seen to it to deliver the right type of gas for commercial cooking.
Nicole Whit said besides the working conditions the unions wanted to address the discrimination against workers. She claimed when school reopened this year several cooks who were cooking at the Cuisine Central for years were removed from their post simply because they are unionized. "Can you imagine they have cooks peeling garlic now and people who were not cooks are now cooking because they are not part of the Unions. We have seven workers whose posts have been outsourced and this is the type of discrimination we are talking about that has to be addressed by the President of the COM," Whit further explained that the equipments at the new kitchen are different to those they are accustomed to working with at the old kitchen. She said the union asked the CTOS to provide adequate training for the workers but only some of them were trained during a one week period.
At the scene on Monday, some of the cooks said the kitchen was no longer shocking anyone and they were willing to work but could not since the entrance of the Cuisine Central was blocked. They also made clear that they were not in support of the actions taken on Monday.
In the meantime, the workers said the Gendarmes were sent just after midday Monday to the scene to issue fines to the drivers of vehicles that bore Dutch number plates. The workers said that President Gumbs and CTOS President Carenne Mills did not meet with them since they maintained that they were on go slow and not full industrial action. The workers and unions said they held their actions for four hours after which the workers returned to their post to continue working.
SMN News further learnt that the Unions heads in Guadeloupe will be handling the issue as of Tuesday. SMN News further learnt that the Gendarmes are now investigating Monday's action.
Click here to view photos of the industrial action at the Cuisine Central on Monday.