The Daily Herald reported that former Member of Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles and current Saba’s representative on the supervisory board of GEBE Ray Hassell extended an interview about discussions held between the company’s representatives and Commissioner Chris Johnson on the transition of the utility company. Thursday’s meeting brought together GEBE management, including Chief Operations Officer Romelio Maduro and Interim Director Paul Marshall, as well as representatives of Dutch Caribbean law firm VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne, who oversee transitional labour and social affairs issues and Saba representatives. Hassell is only one of three GEBE supervisory board members and Roy Smith is Saba’s representative on the board of GEBE Shareholders’ Foundation.
Purpose of the meeting was to inform all stakeholders, particularly employees, about the status of the company’s split-up, the division of shares and buyout procedure. It was reassured that employee’s rights and duties are to be upheld within the new company. Follow-up visits are expected on the final division. The tentative date for the actual transfer and buyback of shares is December 5, with the new company’s obligations effective on January 1, 2014. “Due diligence is being carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the financial aspects,” said Hassell, noting that “due diligence on legal aspects with regard to the transfer of assets and contracts is being carried out by Van Eps,” Hassell also stated that because “in the memorandum of understanding all rights, privileges and obligations are transferred as is per December 31, 2013” employees lose nothing within this transition, not even vacation time, which, if remaining, will be paid to the employee by the end of December. The cost-of-living adjustment increase of two per cent received by the employees this year will remain in effect after January 1, 2014. The performance assessment system currently in place and any associated entitlements will be completed by November and will carry over to the new company.
The meeting also highlighted that GEBE’s employees are among the highest paid employees on the island, getting a 13th month wage annually in recognition of the risks and responsibilities of their work. Hassell praised Saba’s GEBE employees, who repeatedly proved themselves by intervening during rough-weather conditions to restore services promptly. He also stated that among the three island territories, Saba’s GEBE employees have been most efficient in carrying out their responsibilities.
Hassell noted that system upgrades, in particular the large project of laying underground cables, have been implemented faster on Saba than for example neighbouring St. Eustatius. “This is partly thanks to the smaller scale of the island, but Saba also has bigger challenges due to the difficult terrain and traffic limitation.” Hassell praised the speed, effectiveness and hard work of the local labour force. Hassell is to remain as supervisory board member of the new utility company, and Smith will join the same board together with the Dutch government appointee, who is expected to also sit on Statia’s utility company board. To minimize meeting expenses, the board is expected to take decisions via videoconferencing while necessary travel expenses would be covered by the Dutch government. Current GEBE director Dexter Johnson is expected to become managing director.
The company is looking into developing alternative energy sources, including wind generators, solar power and geothermal energy. While there is ministerial support for the plan to move the power plant from its current location at Fort Bay Harbour, delays may occur due to ongoing negotiations with property owners of the intended relocation area.