by Winston Strachan
Following weeks of reading about the industrial dispute between the public sector unions and the government, I have decided to put on paper what I believe is a disgusting situation fomented by political ambition, spite and greed.
It was not so long ago (as recent as 2013) the government of the day was borrowing from the banks and raiding our social security funds to pay wages to themselves and public sector workers. Private businesses to whom the government owed money for goods and services rendered were not being paid because the treasury did not have the funds. Our country was bankrupt; expenditure exceeded revenue by a wide margin. We could not even meet our committed debt repayments and while most public sector workers kept their jobs and enjoyed the benefit of a steady income to pay their bills, feed their families and kept a roof over their heads, the rest of us in the private sector felt the greatest sacrifice — job losses. Reduced pay, even short-term working (job sharing) was the norm if we were fortunate enough to have decent employers who cared. Foreclosures were commonplace and sadly; for most people who found themselves in that situation they have not recovered.
I have been a trade union member for most of my working life indeed, I am now retired but still hold my union card and damn proud of it too. However, as much as I believe in the core values of trade unionism, I also believe that the leadership must act in a responsible manner to the members they represent, the employers that employ those members, as well as taking into account the economic shape of the business their members are employed in, and the state of the country’s economy.
Grenada is not alone. The financial crisis that developed countries experienced hit small economies such as Grenada the hardest. Thanks to our friends overseas and the rapid improvement in recent years in the world economies, we are just about keeping our heads above water in terms of financial stability and economic growth. So when a union official is quoted as saying “the government can afford it” with reference to his union’s demand for a 25% increase in pension and gratuity for teachers, I have to say this guy has a hole in the head. You may say the government can, but our country most certainly cannot afford it. Your pig-headed attitude is not only irresponsible and damaging — it lacks credibility.
Under these circumstances, every man’s pay raise is another man’s pay cut or job loss. Governments don’t have money. It’s a myth; it is ours. Money that is taken away from us all in different forms of taxes, plus loans which must be repaid with interest, grants, international aid and perhaps some income from investment. That’s where government income in terms of revenue comes from. There is no money tree. And as to those loans we have been enjoying at very special low-interest rates, also the receipt of international economic aid. Do these trumped-up union officials think this will continue if our government is seen to bow under pressure to irresponsible demands by public sector unions?
If one government sector workers are given a 25% pension and gratuity increase, every other sector would demand the same (“what is good for the goose is good for gander”). Could we as a country afford this? In the meantime, what will happen to the rest of the country’s employees working in the private sector, including small businesses and the self-employed? Who in heaven’s name in the private sector, the sector that keeps our economy and growth ticking over, could afford an equivalent package for their hard-pressed workers?
Our country needs massive infrastructure improvement as well as new development in infrastructure to encourage future investors to come forward and help with future provision of sustainable jobs and economic growth. Every cent we can spare towards this is an investment in the future of our children and their children. The Town of St George needs a facelift. The town’s roads and pavements are dated. Our historical buildings and heritage sites need restoration and proper statutory protection. We need a decent public library and improvement to our National Museum. We need a development plan to manage our coastal and rivers flood defences. Properties in low lying areas especially those identified as within the flood plain need protecting at a cost. Could the government afford it?
We should not fritter away income for such vital investment by giving in to blackmail by teachers (incidentally who ought to know better) and their greedy politically motivated union officials. Who are these people anyway? These lunatics are hell-bent on destroying the economic gains made through the sacrifices of all of us since 2013.
I take it they are some of the same union officials who weeks ago were demanding an apology from the Prime Minister for part of a speech he made at what I understand was a private meeting with Grenadians in the New York diaspora.
It seems obvious to me the video clip that was put on social media was doctored and union officials wasted no time in demanding an apology from the PM. What interests me about the whole affair is I cannot recall anyone denying outright that such incidents at the hospital(s) does not exist.
They also made false statements regarding nurses who have been successful in meeting the United Kingdom NHS Trust criteria and were awarded a 2-year contract to practice nursing in the UK National Health Service. For the record, these nurses are not immigrating; they are on a strict 2-year contract and have to return to Grenada when their contract runs out. Why tell lies?
Christmas is coming; hit the strikers where it hurts – in their pockets. Teachers who are prepared to strike should be paid accordingly. If you teach our children and pupils for 3 days, then you should be paid for a 3-day week not one cent more. Parents should make it clear to their children that teachers going on strike are putting their future at risk also. They are the ones who in the future will have to work to pay for the 25% increase in gratuity and pension their greedy teachers are demanding, yet those same teachers are not prepared to provide them with the education they are entitled to by law.
After reading the statement by Beryl Isaac, Chairman, Government Pension Engagement Committee giving an “Update and clarifying the issue of Pension Restoration and Reform; I say to parents and grandparents you should come out and support the government stance and stand up to these bullies. Enough is enough. Their claims are baseless. Teachers should get back to the classrooms and teach our children otherwise, we should take to the streets and demonstrate in solidarity against teachers for the damage they are causing to our children’s education.
The 2 senators who have called for the repeal of the Fiscal Responsibility legislation and for government to give in to the strikers, shows exactly why their political party is unelectable. Weak. Weak and gutless.