The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration and two public sector unions are still miles apart in signing off on the one-off payment due to the island’s estimated 5, 000 civil servants.
The Joint Negotiating Team of the two unions on Friday rejected the latest offer put on the table by their counterparts from the government side led by acting Cabinet Secretary, Beryl Isaac.
Government had given an undertaking to strike a one-off payment with civil servants for their contributions including a wage freeze during the 3-years of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to address weaknesses in the island’s fiscal system.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the PWU and TAWU were summoned to a meeting at the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens where a new package was offered to them – to choose from $750.00 as a maximum for public officers in the service three years and over and $650.00 for officers in the service less than three years or $700 across the board.
The unions reportedly held their ground for a one-off payment of $1500.00 amidst a show of solidarity from some public officers who were seen outside the building singing songs of solidarity.
Speaking to reporters after the session, TAWU President General, Andre Lewis said that the two unions are confident that government can offer more than they are currently putting before them to settle the issue.
“We have rejected that because we are confident that they can pay more, they tried that shot the last time and we are saying this is now our time”, he remarked.
“We are not accepting that, they can pay more. The government is bad spending money all over the place.
There are two Ministries of Works – the Ministry of Works under the traditional Ministry of Works and a Ministry of Works under the Prime Minister’s Ministry”, he said.
This is an obvious reference to the millions of dollars allocated to the Office of the Prime Minister in a mini-budget to take the country to the end of 2017.
Lewis also alluded to the secret manner in which the NNP regime had entered into a deal with a Trinidad businessman to take over the running of the state-owned Gravel Concrete & Emulsion Production.
He said, “…As we speak right now they have moved to give away Gravel and Concrete by dismantling the board because the board refused what they are saying. The question that would arise, why are they doing that? Do they want money for themselves as individuals? I don’t know. It is a legitimate question workers have asked. I don’t have an answer but what I do know, the sacrifices that our public officers have made demands more than what the government have undertaken.”
Public Relations Officer of PWU, Brian Grimes was critical of the manner in which the Mitchell government was treating Public Officers.
Grimes compared the situation in Dominica in the aftermath of the recent hurricane to ravage the island in which the government there responded positively to the plight of public officers.
He said, “If you look regionally, you look at what is happening in Dominica, that country was utterly devastated by a hurricane but yet for all at the end of this month, you have a double bubble taking place.
The public officers within that country would get two months’ salary, they would also get a 3% increase and retroactive going back to the earlier part of this year and that is because that government has the integrity to know that an agreement was signed and they left no stone unturned in making sure that they kept true to their word.
“…In Grenada, here we had going at the table excuses being put forward as to why they cannot pay a better one-off and Dominica being an excuse as to why not (but) look at what is happening in Dominica.
“I want this to marinate in the minds of the people as to the difference in how government treat with workers from country to country.”
Grimes also rejected claims made by Prime Minister Mitchell that the stand being taken by public officers on the issue is politically motivated.
“This is not something political – it is a bread and butter issue. Within the public service there are a number of us who are NNP, a number of us who are NDC, some who are (Grenada) Renaissance (Party) and GOD (Good Ole Democracy) but at the end of the day when we go to the stores we spend one money, one currency and if they pay, the money stays within economy of Grenada, the country benefits.
“When public officers receive that money, they will not put it in a vault, it is going back in the economy and make things happen. So, we are very concerned…as to the attitude of government in response to this one-off negotiation and we will not give up. We will exhaust all our means legally and otherwise to ensure that public officers in this country get a better one-off offer.”
PM Mitchell repeated the allegation about political strike action by public officers during an address at Snug Corner on Sunday night at the party’s launch of Tobias Clement as the NNP candidate for St. George North-east in the upcoming general election.