by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- 1958 Pension Act informs on formula for 25%
- Figure for payment of gratuity must be fact-based
- Ministry of Education should consider substitute teacher programme
25% by itself is not the issue said Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, but the formula on which it is based which can be traced back to the 1958 Pension Act.
He indicated the current impasse between the public sector unions and the government could have been avoided, but unfortunately, miscommunication between all parties involved has unnecessarily escalated the situation.
“If you go back to the old colonial period in 1958 and 25% of that basis, then we are in trouble… so the MOU talks about restoration and reform, but my brothers and sisters in the unions want to implement restoration and no reform… we can pay the 25% but not under the current construct.”
With the resumption of talks between all parties involved, Dr Mitchell said whatever figure is arrived at for the payment of gratuity must be fact-based, but before this can happen several formulas must be carefully analysed.
“I cannot give a figure until the numbers are crunched. In other words, the discussion on pension and advance payment must be facts based, it’s not what Keith Mitchell thinks or how someone in the media thinks especially when we all agree that we cannot break the fiscal responsibility rule… If it’s my money I would say give it but if it will put the country in trouble, do I want this to be my legacy?”
Dr Mitchell said the government should take the blame for not adequately preparing the population to understand the issue of pension reform. “I believe we have to take blame for is that we did not prepare the population sufficiently for understanding this issue and therefore we would not stop here after this is solved. We believe we have to go out into the villages and the different government departments and sit down with staff and explain this whole issue of pension because many of them will come for pension aid sometime in the future.”
Now that the public sector unions and the government are back to the negotiating table and teachers have returned to the classroom Dr Mitchell said it is hoped that a resolution can be found that will not put the country at jeopardy.
Prior to the teachers returning to work, during an address to the nation on Monday, Prime Minister Mitchell stated that his cabinet ministers were prepared to teach the nation’s children if the current situation continued.
On Tuesday Dr Mitchell reassured the public that his statement, which stirred public uproar, should be taken seriously and will only be implemented in dire circumstances. “I am only talking in a dire situation, you think with the problem I have in government’s leadership right now, sometimes I don’t get time for myself, you think I will really enjoy having to go to a classroom? But I will do it under extenuating circumstances, so I don’t know what the uproar was about.”
He further stated major lessons have been learned from this recent industrial impasse and has prompted the need for the Ministry of Education to consider implementing a serious substitute teacher programme in the unlikely event that situation reoccurs. “I think we need to institute that because what happens many times when teachers get sick in the system the classroom is left many times without anybody, that is not fair, so the ministry needs to look at a substitute teacher programme.”
The government is expected to present a new proposal on the formula for gratuity payment to the public sector unions which is expected to come before cabinet next Monday. The government negotiating team will again meet with the union next Friday.