The Government Negotiating Team met with the leadership of the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) on Friday, 20 January.
While the overall tone of the meeting was cordial and the parties agreed in principle on increases to base salaries of 3% increase for 2017 and 2018 and 4% for 2019, amounting to a total of $22.9 million, the parties differed on the amount to be received by workers as part of Government’s one-off payment proposal to workers in recognition of the shared sacrifice over the period 2013 to 2016.
Prime Minister Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, who attended the meeting, stressed the need for all parties to work together on a solution that puts the country first.
Dr Mitchell outlined the restrictions on Government’s ability to entertain additional payments that are being proposed by PWU and TAWU. Among those limitations are the conditions agreed to in the Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme, which was implemented in 2014, with the sixth and final review by the IMF scheduled for June 2017. According to the Prime Minister,
“It is not that we do not want to honour workers’ requests, but we cannot. If we were to do so, we will jeopardise the full benefits of the SAP including the millions in debt relief and funds that we stand to gain after the last successful review. Therefore, if we lose the money from the SAP by agreeing to pay the unions their request, then we still will not be able to pay the money you’re asking because we won’t have it anyway.”
The Prime Minister reminded that in 2013, Government honoured the existing commitment to pay a total of $40.5 million in salary increases for the period 2010–2012.
Dr Mitchell pointed out that the contents of the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation recently passed by Parliament severely restricts the amount that the Government can spend in certain categories of expenditure such as person emoluments. Dr Mitchell stressed that it would be illegal and contrary to law for his administration to spend in excess of 9% of the Gross Domestic Product of Grenada in any one fiscal year on Personal Emoluments.
The Grenadian leader went on to say that: “No one is more conscious than me that we are in an election period within a year or year and half; therefore, if Government could pay what you are asking, then it would clearly be in our administration’s interest to do so, but it does not take into account the overall needs of the entire country. As a result, I will not, as Prime Minister, make a decision that will set the country back, as has happened in the past, because ultimately, the same workers will be the ones who will feel it the most.”
Regarding the limits set in the FRL, the Unions’ position was that they believe that Government can find creative ways in which to meet the demands of the workers for a three times higher one-off payment than the government has proposed.
With all parties understanding what is at stake for country and membership, they agreed to continue the dialogue with a view to reaching a satisfactory solution in the shortest possible time so that workers can access payments.