by Linda Straker
Government workers who stayed off the job on Monday and Tuesday were ordered by their unions to return to their jobs. No reason was officially provided by the unions, but there was an assurance from an executive member of the Public Workers Union (PWU), that government’s offer of EC$650 will not be accepted.
Public Officers represented by the PWU and the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU), stayed off the job for 48 hours as a mark of protest to reject a further EC$650 being offered by the government’s negotiating team for the period 2014 to 2016.
During that 3-year period there were no salary increases and during negotiations for period 2017 to 2019 government offered a one-off payment of EC$1,000 as a thank you for the sacrifice made by workers during the period.
Other bargaining agents including the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Grenada Maritime and Manual Workers Union (GMMWU) accepted the amount for its members, but it was refused by the GTAWU and PWU who were demanding EC$3,000.
Earlier this year, both unions reached a partial agreement with government to accept the EC$1,000 and to re-establish negotiations in July if the fiscal space allowed. The unions then reduced the demand to EC$1,500 instead of EC$2,000 from the original request.
Government initially offered EC$500, but it was increased to EC$650 after negotiations and a recommendation from the Minister for Labour.
Though describing the action as successful by claiming that 75% of the workers stayed off the job, Brian Grimes, Public Relations Officer of the PWU said that the industrial action is far from over.
“Next time around the strike action will be much more impactful, based on strategic changes we will make going forward. It is far from over; we understand this is a struggle together.” He explained that the post-mortem of the unions felt that that the strike was a successful event.
He warned that the issue is not solved, and the unions are not prepared to accept the government’s offer. “It cannot be over, the joint negotiating team is adamant, we are determined, and we will never sign on to a $650 figure for the structural adjustment period,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell on Tuesday said that he was hopeful that common sense would prevail and the impasse will be resolved amicably.