by Linda Straker
- Public servants to continue the industrial protest on Wednesday
- Members of both unions have been on and off the job since 5 November
Public Servants will continue into the third day of industrial protest on Wednesday despite government’s decision to lift the injunction filed to stop essential services workers from protesting and the Labour Minister engaging them in a 3-hour meeting on Monday night.
“Members we are staying home tomorrow,” instructed Rachel Roberts, President of the Public Workers Union at the conclusion of Tuesday march and rally.
President of the Grenada Union of Teacher Lydon Lewis said, “Members we cannot return to classroom unless we get equal rights and justice.” He said that the struggle is about justice that will ensure that public servants don’t retire to a life of poverty. “Pension and gratuities are a right, what we are fighting for should have been a given,” he added.
Members of both unions have been on and off the job since 5 November in protest of government’s proposed offer of 2% on gratuity upon retirement. The unions are claiming 25% will the only acceptable offer because that amount is guaranteed in the Constitution.
Section 92 of the Grenada constitution said, “with respect to any pension benefits that were granted to any person before this section comes into operation, this shall be the law that was in force at the date on which those benefits were granted or any law in force at a later date that is not less favourable to that person.”
The law back then was the 1958 Pension Act which provides for public officers to receive a gratuity of 25% after working in the service for 33.3 years. However, in 1983 the then People Revolutionary Government approved the Pension Disqualification law which became enforced and validated as of 22 February 1985 by the Herbert Blaize Administration following the 1984 General Election. Negotiations were also held to reduce the number of years from 33.3 years to 26.6 years a public service can serve before retirement.
The PRG which had suspended the constitution collapse following the events of October 1983 in which the Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and other was killed.
The Government on the weekend filed an injunction in the Court to stop essential services workers from taking protest action and it was scheduled to be heard on Sunday. Instead of a hearing, the was postponed to Wednesday and by Monday evening it was lifted.
“The Government of Grenada has notified the Registrar of the Supreme Court that it is withdrawing its application for an injunction filed against the trade unions. The move is intended to facilitate the recommencement of the negotiations between Government and the unions,” said a news release from the Government Information Service (GIS) which said that Labour Minister Peter David was scheduled to meet with the Unions.
A news release issued on Tuesday afternoon said that Minister of Labour, Honourable Peter David and Labour Commissioner, Cyrus Griffith worked late into the night Monday in a meeting with leaders of the Public Sector Trade Unions and Staff Associations in an attempt to get the unions back to the negotiating table with Government’s Pension Engagement Committee (PEC).
“Examination of the MOU did not reveal any agreement on the payment of 25% gratuity at the point of retirement from the service and when the PEC placed a 2% gratuity with a 98% pension on the table, the unions walked away in protest. Since then, initiated by the Grenada Union of Teachers the unions took industrial action,” said the release which explained that the meeting lasted for 3 hours.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the release said Minister David was able to reach an understanding with the unions that, having lifted the threat of an injunction, the PEC will set aside its 2% offer and that the issue of the gratuity and discussions of how much gratuity and possible permutations of payment to ensure compliance with the FRA will be discussed.
“Minister David was tasked with getting the PEC to communicate that in writing to the unions and it is expected that talks between the parties will resume on Friday morning. Now that the threat of the injunction has been lifted, unions likewise are expected to get workers back to work so that negotiations can resume. Minister David expressed the view that a resolution to this impasse is within sight,” the release said.