Public workers in Grenada are showing increasing signs of being frustrated with their working conditions under the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The Public Workers Union (PWU) staged protest action through the streets of St. George’s last week Thursday to express annoyance with the administration on its hiring of nurses.
The island’s leading public sector union has expressed grave concerns over the decision of the Mitchell government to employ nurses through an agency – an act the PWU has deeming to be unconstitutional.
Thursday’s action saw the Acting President of the union, Rachael Roberts leading the workers out of the union’s head office at Tanteen from 10.00 a.m, along the Port Highway and in front the Botanical Gardens where the Ministerial Complex is located.
After spending a few minutes there, the workers moved along the Carenage and into the town of St. George amidst chants and placards and singing the Union song.
Government’s use of the agency to hire nurses on a temporary arrangement has been a bone of contention with PWU as the union believes that the contractual employment with the outfit now identified as Grencase is not in the best interest of nurses.
As the workers marched, Roberts told reporters: “We are protesting for our constitutional rights. Public Officers are appointed via the Constitution (through) Section 84 1&2 and this is being violated because we see that our government is now appointing persons through an agency which is responsible for the development of small business, not for appointment of public officers”.
According to Roberts, several meetings were held between officials of government and the union to discuss the issue but the talks proved futile.
“We have had many sittings before the table and they have insisted to continue their unconstitutional appointment.
“We are saying that we do not want unconstitutional appointment, we want our nurses to be properly appointed. We want employment for nurses, proper employment. Public officers are going to do what they have to do to ensure that their constitutional rights are upheld.
Roberts called on the Mitchell-led government to treat the island’s nurses much better.
“We are saying that we employed persons to look after our interest, to provide decent work … not to treat us as slaves….”, she said.
“…We are people, we are humans. Our nurses are persons who work hard, our nurses are considered to be essential (service) persons, so why are they treated in this manner?
Roberts urged the administration to “give our nurses decent work, obey and respect our constitution”.
According to the trade union leader, if the government wants to change the constitution on hiring public sector employees it must do so in the correct manner.
“…Our constitution requires … if it is to be changed …it requires a two thirds referendum, not by the stroke of a pen or the feel of any man of woman that our constitution must be changed,” she said.
The PWU protest action continued into last Friday with workers seen in front the St. George’s Medical Centre voicing their concerns about the plight of the nurses through placards and chants.