by Linda Straker
- High Court to hear injunction arguments at 3 pm today
- Judge Paula Gilford will hear matter via video conference
The High Court has scheduled 3 pm today Sunday, 18 November to hear arguments in an injunction filed by the government that will stop some public workers who are employed in the essential services area, from participating in the ongoing industrial protest.
The Labour Relations Act No 15 of 1999, provides for an employer to approach the court for an order to protect the public from being unduly affected by an industrial protest involving essential workers.
According to the legislation which received objection from Chester Humphrey – the then representative of the Trade Union Council in the Upper House of Parliament, essential workers are those working in the following fields: electricity, water, public health protection services including sanitation; hospital and nursing; airport; seaport and dock services including pilotage fire; air traffic control; telephone, telegraph and overseas telecommunication; prisons and police.
Government and trade unions representing public workers are presently are at a standstill in negotiations for the reformation of pension and gratuity for retired officers. In 1983 the then People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) approved legislation which created the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) that will provide a pension for all retired officers who contribute a minimum of 500 contributions.
Government also approved the pension disqualification act which put as zero the amount Government needs to pay to public officers at the time of retirement. The law went into effect in February 1985 by the then Herbert Blaize New National Party administration.
This was challenged in the court by an officer following her retirement, and the court ordered that she receive her pension and gratuity, based on the year she became an established worker in the system.
The present Keith Mitchell Administration announced in February 2018 that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to restore and reform the pension for workers. Pension was restored to retired officers who joined Government employment before 1985.
The union and government then began negotiations for workers who joined the service after February 1985. The unions are asking for 25% gratuity, but government said it could only afford 2% based on its present and projected financing ability.
The Grenada Union of Teachers was the first to announce its intention to be off the job for 2 days during the first week of November. By the second week, workers of the Public Workers Union (PWU) joined in the protest.
On Friday, 16 November the unions announced that they would be off the job on Monday, 19 November and would have a mass rally on Tuesday, 20 November for public workers.
During last Tuesday’s post-cabinet briefing, Planning Minister Oliver Joseph said the Government’s Negotiating Team wants the union to return to negotiating table.
However, Lydon Lewis, President of the GUT said his union would only return if government accepts the 25% as proposed. A meeting with the Labour Commissioner to resolve the impasse concluded in a walk-out as unions first want government to agree to the 25% gratuity to continue negotiations.
On 13 November, government said it would move to protect people’s healthcare at the General Hospital and other facilities, should top medical officials join a call for industrial action by the Public Workers Union (PWU).
“There are restrictions on industrial action in essential services such as the health sector,” said a government statement disseminated through the Government Information Service (GIS). The release explained that the ruling administration is concerned that the healthcare of ordinary Grenadians could be compromised by action that is not legal under the labour statutes.
Judge Paula Gilford will hear the matter via video conference.