An executive member of the Public Workers Union (PWU) has criticized the Imani programme that is run by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government to tackle unemployment among young people in Grenada.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, the union’s Public Relations Officer, Brian Grimes said the millions of dollars being spent on the programme could be used more productively in the country especially within the Public Sector.
“The union is for employment. The union is for youth empowerment at all cost but (when) we look at what is happening with the IMANI programme, reportedly it takes 30 million dollars a year to sustain that programme. So, if you look at the three year span and you do the Mathematics, we’re talking about 90 million dollars”, he said.
“Now the IMF came and they did their review. Within the review they said one of the shortcomings of the Government of Grenada or one of the shortcomings of our country is high unemployment and particularly in the youth unemployment. Now the question is this – if 30 million dollars a year has come up with the shortcoming in the youth employment, are we getting value for money with the IMANI programme,” he questioned.
The NNP has often been accused of using the Imani programme to maintain its stranglehold on the youth population for electioneering purposes.
Grimes called on the Mitchell-led government to carefully assess how it is allocating the nation’s resources in order for there to be maximum benefit for the public service.
The PWU member also addressed the issue of those workers in the service who have no permanent status and classified as “temporary workers”.
He said: “When you look in the face of this situation, this epidemic, this cancer throughout the public service, this can have negative psychological effects on public officers; working day by day, not being secure in their tenure, not being able to step up economically in their tenure and their families.
“So we are saying it’s time for the lip service to stop, time for the cosmetic initiative to stop and meaningful action be taken by government to empower public servants”, he added.
Grimes also took issue with government’s hiring of some workers through an agency called GRENCASE.
He branded the move as unconstitutional since the supreme law of the land recognises the Public Service Commission (PSC) as the only legitimate body that can hire public officers.
According to Grimes, the nurses had no choice but to accept the employment offered because of the current situation in the country and the fact that “they have their families to feed”.
“Most of them would have grabbed the carrot that was dangled in front of them. If a man starves another man for two weeks and the man who is doing the starving dangles raw meat in front the person who is starved, what do you think the response would be? The response would be that the person who is starved would eat that meat whether or not it’s cooked, whether or not it’s seasoned”, he said.
“What we are saying is that government would have created that situation based on their policy making… and that is evident. It is not manufactured by the Union. Anyone who has eyes can see that the government uses its resources to please itself and for its political ends,” he added.
According to Grimes, the PWU has many reservations about the use of the politically aligned GRENCASE by the Mitchell government to provide jobs for persons to work in the public service.
“…There is constitutional reform and the government is not respecting the constitution as it currently stands. Apart from the constitution, we have many reservations about the agency.
“…One being the possibility of political interference because this agency is an arm of the New National Party (NNP) government and we do not want for there to be any interference as far as people’s political affiliation, which would impact their job security. It should be done simply on their ability to perform their jobs.
Grimes also addressed the issue of fears among many civil servants that “the government has some sort of disdain for public officers.”
“We’re not saying that this is a reality but we have to deal with it as a strong perception based on the interaction that we’ve had with the rank and file members,” he told this newspaper.
He said this perception stems from the fact that the regime would have taken an inordinate amount of time to pay public officers their long overdue increments.
“The Union would have never agreed to the freezing of those payments”, he remarked.
There are reports that government still owes increment payments to some civil servants.
Grimes also alluded to the vexing issue of non payment of pension to civil servants who joined the service after 1983 in light of a high court ruling that they were entitled to such benefits.
He said: “Sister Hermilyn Armstrong-Cox would have won that case definitively, yet for all, people are retiring, going home to nothing,” he said.
The non-payment of pensions to this category of workers is a bone of contention of PWU in light of the fact that Parliamentarians who serve two terms in the Upper and Lower Houses are entitled to State pensions.
The PWU PRO also touched on the issue of questionable transfer of workers within the public sector by the Mitchell government.
“We have technical officers being removed from their positions and put into places where they are like fish out of water or a square peg in a round hole. This does not speak to productivity. This does not speak to public sector modernisation. This does not speak to enhancing the product that the public sector provides to the general public…”, he said.
According to Grimes, this issue is leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of civil servants and gives them the perception that “they are like an adopted child of the government instead of a direct child of the government”.
He chided the administration for preaching public sector modernization but ignoring the regularising of workers for an exorbitant period of time.
He said if the public sector has to be modernised, there must be an intention to improve whatever is there and to make the public service a more professional arena to work in.
The PWU official called on government to “remedy the situation”, saying, “we are confident that it could be done”.
“When we look at our counterparts in the GUT, they would have made some strides in ensuring that the people that they represent become established. We understand that establishment is extremely important for the morale of a worker, for their socio-economic development,” he remarked.
Grimes said the PWU wants to see government exercise good governance and due diligence and to regularise public workers in order to ensure stability for themselves and their families.
“Based on the situation that exist now, the workers within the public service their hands are tied because they can’t face the bank with any confidence, yet for all they fulfill their role as best as possible.
“Going forward in the new dispensation, this is something that our Union, the Public Workers Union (PWU) will place great emphasis otherwise if you do not do that we’re basically spinning top in the mud.