May Day 2018 – Plight of workers remains unchanged

Member of the Grenada Union of Teachers demonstrating

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • GTUC called on government to move quickly to address the concerns of workers
  • Trade union presidents addressed hundreds of workers on issues about labour

The plight of the Grenadian workers has not changed much over the years, as was quite evident during Tuesday”s International Workers Day celebration.

Workers say they continue to face many challenges in the workplace including issues relating to pension restoration, eradication of contract work, health and safety, late salary payments and low wages, while other grievances point to the lack of confidence in government.

Members of TAWU with placards

Placards, banners, and chants were used during the May Day March from Tempe playing field to the National Stadium to vent the frustration of workers. The trade unions banded together under the theme “Uniting workers for social and economic advancement.”

“Public workers have more patients than the hospital; Who sell gravel and concrete when, where, why, to whom and how much; 15 sits in the house but not enough chairs in schools; Salary doing limbo it staying low” were some of the placard messages.

The Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC) called on the government to move quickly to address the concerns of workers. The trade union presidents addressed hundreds of workers on issues about labour.

President of the Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (CIWU), George Mason, electrified the crowd with his speech after he accused employers of maximising the economic crisis to increase their profits. “In 2014 the TUC entered into an arrangement with government and a structural adjustment programme was fully supported by labour; and while the programmes deepened, the unions were insisting on job protection. However, some employers compounded the problem by using the prevailing economic crisis to maximise profit by increasing workers’ workload leading to more and more workers being burnt out.”

Lydon Lewis, President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), wasted little time in addressing many of government’s undelivered promises, particularly in the area of education. “They promised the rebuilding of schools, yet some of the schools have not been touched. They promised to regularise teachers and have not completed the process, and teachers still have not received their negotiated benefits agreed upon in our collective agreement. So, we say we must stand against a government that refuses to respect the collective agreement.”

Rachael Roberts, President of the Public Workers Union, tackled the issues of contract work which she said seems to permeate the public sector. “Public officers: we raised our voices to call on government to stop the dismantling of the public service through contract work and instrument of appointments which are down-pressing labour and depriving workers of stability of tenure.”

The government has also been accused by President of the Bank and General Workers Union, Justin Campbell of neglecting the agriculture sector. “Many of our government estates have been commercialised, but to date, productivity is at its lowest. Just imagine one estate moved from 16 workers to only 3, so how can we expect maximum productivity and full cultivation of these estates? Take for example Belle Vue estate. Prior to it being commercialised you could have seen workers engaged and production taking place, but today under new management the estates now look like a forest.”

Regarding the ongoing negotiations surrounding the restoration of pension, Andre Lewis, President General of the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), said the government would be held to its 30 June 2018 deadline to resolve the issue of pension. “We shall hold you accountable come the 30 June 2018 deadline to resolve the pension issue, because it is unfair that parliamentarians enjoy their benefits after just serving 2 terms in office, while workers go home after retirement without any compensation.”

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