by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Unions are seeking a negotiated settlement
- Government maintains it cannot afford to meet union demands
- GUT plans to heighten industrial action next week
“Let me make it clear; we are not negotiating 25%; 25% is the law.” Claims made by President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis as he sought to clear some misconceptions regarding the ongoing impasse between public sector unions and government.
During his first Facebook Live last evening, Lewis quoted a section of the collective agreement signed in 1997 and, according to him the documents state, “Workers may choose full pension; the final pension emoluments up to max 26 years and 8 months; or have a reduced pension 3/4 of a pension and a gratuity which is pension x 1/4 x 12.5 years.”
Lewis said what the unions are seeking is a negotiated settlement. “We have a collective agreement giving teachers full pension and their gratuity, or 3/4 pension and 1/4 which is 25% gratuity. We have negotiated for the sake of the country.”
Lewis’ statement came in response to Minister Oliver Joseph who on Tuesday stated that 25% gratuity is not in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) nor the collective agreement. The government has made clear its intention to deduct from the salary of public service employees including teachers who did not report for duty following recent industrial action.
As a consequence, the GUT president stated that there are plans to heighten industrial action next week. “Next week will be heightened, but besides the heightened activity we are going to keep this for as long as we can. We are going to have a work-to-rule. We are going to do what is the bare minimum in the system. No marking of SBAs; pile up the SBAs and send them to the ministry. No CPEA; pile them up and send them to the ministry. Let them pay people to mark them. This is not our duties. The union will immediately suspend all activities that are not specifically geared towards teachers.”
Lewis has challenged the government to identify the teachers who do not report for duties. “I want to see the ministers go to the various ministries and deduct these salaries for themselves. I want to see the ministry verify who were the teachers who were there and who was not there, and come up with accurate data as to whose salary they should deduct from and those they should not.”
The GUT president reminded teachers that this fight for gratuity will be an uphill battle which will require sacrifices to be made to achieve their goal. “We must make sacrifices for the greater good, so don’t be intimidated.”
Lewis said it is unfortunate that this situation has escalated. He said, “We are willing to compromise on the pensionable amount per month, but not on the gratuity which by law is 25%.”
The government maintains that it cannot afford to meet the demands of the unions.