by Linda Straker
- Industrial protest moves into fourth week
- Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union will join industrial action
- Church bodies have called for situation to be resolved
Public Officers in Grenada will continue into a fourth week of industrial protest next week and the trade union which represents a broad cross-section of essential services workers are expected to join in the action which will see them staying off the job for at least 3 days.
Since 5 November 2018 members of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Public Workers Union (PWU) have withheld their labour by staying off the job for at least 2 or 3 days per week. Last week government filed an injunction to stop essential services workers from participating in the industrial protest. Government later retracted the injunction as part of its efforts to encourage the unions to return to the bargaining table. The unions are demanding that government accepts the proposed 25% gratuity for retirees, while government said it can only offer 2%. Unions are saying that amount is provided for in the constitution and accepting anything less will be in violation of the constitution, but government is saying if it accepts the proposed figure, this would cripple the country financially.
“We remain committed to offering the best possible package to workers within the context of the Fiscal Responsibility Law, Mr Speaker, acceding to the unions’ demands of 25% advance will cripple the country financially,” said Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell when he presented the 2019 budget on Wednesday.
“It is simply not feasible given our current project revenue stream to meet these demands and furthermore to sustain them over the long term,” he said, reminding the House that the 2015 Fiscal Responsibility Legislation provides for government not to surpass 9% of GDP on the amount government can assign for salaries, wages and other expenditure per year. Public officers returned to work on Friday while representatives of the unions met with government to chart the way forward.
However, following a meeting on Friday morning with the Pension Engagement Committee, Lydon Lewis President of the GUT sent a letter to members of the union late Friday evening instructing them to stay off the job the first 3 working days of the week. They are also to attend a march and rally on Wednesday. “Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union will join the industrial action on Wednesday with the inclusion of some strategic workplaces,” said the letter which urged the workers to stand strong and continue the struggle towards pension and gratuity restoration. “This is a battle to be won and we must keep on eyes on the prize,” concluded the letter which was signed by Lewis.
In the past 48 hours, Father Clyde Harvey, head of the Catholic Community and Devon Rachae, President of the Evangelical Churches have called on both government and unions to go back to the bargaining table to resolve the issue. A number of students have also taken to streets marching with placards as they call on government to resolve the issue so that teachers can return to the classrooms.