by Linda Straker
- Friday, 7 December is the date to continue negotiations
- Teachers return to classrooms on Tuesday, 27 November
Acting Labour Minister Anthony Boatswain said that Friday, 7 December is the date set for government and unions to continue negotiations into the retirement package for public officers.
The package offered by government has been rejected by the unions. They are claiming that government’s 2% gratuity offer will see public officers returning into poverty. The unions are asking for 25%.
Unions not only rejected the offer but from 5 November began sporadic industrial protests which saw public officers staying off the job for 2 or 3 days per week.
The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) were the first to begin the protest and they were joined by the Grenada Public Workers Union (PWU), while the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) threatened to get its members involved.
After failed attempts by government labour officials to have the unions return to the negotiating table, the Acting Labour Minister and senior officials from various religious organisations were able to get the union to attend a meeting on Monday, 26 November 2018.
At that meeting which was intended to inform the unions that the Labour Minister would institute a tribunal arbitration, it was agreed that the parties would return to the negotiating table and the unions would suspend industrial protest.
A statement issued from the Government Information Service (GIS) on Monday afternoon quoted Boatswain as saying, “Having invoked my powers under the Labour Relations Act and summoned a meeting of the disputing parties today to discuss arbitration, the meeting ended with an agreement to resume the pension talks.
“I have been reliably informed by the leadership of the trade unions that all industrial action will cease and workers, in particular, our teachers, will return to the classroom as of Tuesday, 27 November,” the statement said.
Thanking the leadership of the public sector trade unions for their understanding in this matter and for their recognition that the national interest and the interest of our nation’s children supersede all other interests, Boatswain said he was very gratified to have been of some assistance in getting the public sector trade unions and in particular, the Grenada Union of Teachers to cease all industrial action and to return to the bargaining table to seek a permanent solution to the current industrial dispute.
“It is my wish that a permanent solution will be found to this dispute that will benefit all concerned,” the statement said.
Following the minister’s statement, the Grenada Public Workers Union and the Grenada Union of Teachers published an announcement informing members that following the intervention of Bishop Clive Harvey, Bishop of the Catholic Church, and the agreement of government to discontinue the arbitration process with the PWU and GTAWU, the PWU asked all members to report as normal for work on Tuesday, 27 November.
The parties met on 27 November as promised and a date was set to continue with negotiations on 7 December. No new offer was presented, but it is expected that government will presents its new position to the unions on that date.
The industrial protest began the first week of November 2108 when the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) instructed its members to stay off the job because of government’s refusal to accept its 25% gratuity on pension. Government proposed 2%. Later in the week, the Public Workers Union (PWU) announced that its workers were taking a solidarity stand and since then a wide cross-section of public workers has been on the job 2 or 3 days per week.
Last week Tuesday, a march and rally were held in which hundreds of workers paraded through the streets of St George’s chanting and displaying placards calling on government to accept the 25%.
Government has continuously said it cannot afford the 25% because it will violate the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation. During last week Wednesday’s budget presentation, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said that accepting that percentage would financially cripple the nation.
The unions and government’s pension negotiating team held a meeting last Friday and by that evening the unions instructed members to remain at home from 26-28 November.
On Saturday, 24 November government issued a news release saying that Acting Minister for Labour, Honourable Anthony Boatswain would be taking immediate action to seek a solution to resolve the dispute between the Pension Engagement Committee and the trade unions and staff associations, on the matter of the advanced payment of pension (gratuity).
Boatswain was appointed to act as labour minister because Peter David who is the minister was out of state attending a conference in Dubai. Once David returns Boatswain’s appointment becomes null and void.