Lydon Lewis: Low blow by MOE to attack teachers’ pockets

Lydon Lewis , President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT)

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • GUT president Minister for Education statement as low blow to teachers
  • Nation’s teachers returned to work Thursday, 8 November.

President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis considers the latest statement issued by the Minister for Education as a low blow to the teachers who were called upon to make sacrifices during the structural adjustment programme.

On Wednesday, the Minister for Education Hon. Emmalin Pierre released a statement condemning the action of the GUT instructing its members not to report to work on Wednesday, 7 November for purposes of rest in contemplation of pension. The statement indicated that the “such a call is in breach of the Labour Relations Act, CAP 157A Section 45, and therefore unlawful. It is also in breach of the collective agreement between the Government of Grenada and the GUT, specifically Article 16, which is the procedure for the resolution of disputes.”

It also stated that “The Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and Religious Affairs reminds teachers that they are paid to perform their duties and that staying away from work, for rest in contemplation of pension, is indeed irregular industrial action, as defined in the Labour Relations Act. This ministry recognises the right of workers to withdraw their labour, but workers must clearly understand that those who elect to follow the unlawful directive of the President of the GUT run the risk of not being paid for the period of time they do not report to work.”

The action taken by the GUT to have teachers remain home was as a result of government’s offer of 2% on pension gratuities which was unanimously rejected by the unions. They are seeking 25%.

In response, Lydon Lewis was surprised that the statement, which did not speak to the issue at hand, was not issued by the government negotiation team headed by Beryl Isaac. He said that the latter sort to attack the finances of teachers where they are most vulnerable. “The letter attacked two areas that are perceived vulnerable areas of teachers: one the worker’s pockets and two workers without tenure or the temporary teachers, and what a low blow from the Minister for Education attacking the pockets of the same workers that were called upon to make sacrifices under the structural adjustment programme.”

The plight of temporary teachers was also ignored said the GUT president. “The second release from the Ministry speaks to the collective agreement. Now there are several aspects of the collective agreement that is not being adhered to by the Ministry of Education. Travel allowance for principals that they are not receiving; book allowance for teachers providing reference materials and lesson plans – this is non-existent. Seniority allowance has been cut for no reason and every time we asked from the ministry to replace it, we have been met with blocks. The incentive allowance that teachers should receive every month has been stopped.”

Lydon Lewis said the union is well within their right to make such a call, and to prove his case referred to the collective agreement. “No part of this section shall be interpreted to mean that either party cannot engage in any form of industrial action for the furtherance of their cause, whether in whole or in part or in solidarity in at any stage save and except during the process of arbitration so the union is within its legal right.” He said that “Part of the collective agreement says that teachers shall not be penalised because he or she is a member of the union or he or she is involved in the activities of the Grenada Union of Teachers. The article went on to say that certain teachers shall not be subjected to discrimination, victimisation, and harassment, but what we are seen in their second release by the Ministry of Education is an attempt to harass teachers, especially temporary teachers.”

The nation’s teachers returned to work today Thursday, 8 November.

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