by Ray Roberts
Grenadian workers need to rekindle the passion to struggle intensely, and protect their hard earned benefits.
The rich and treasured history of May Day, Labour Day, unites the workers of the world to struggle against injustice of all kinds. And, as such, the Labour movement is irreplaceable in society regardless of their shortcomings.
The fact is Government cannot be trusted because the key decision makers are generally capital and business oriented, and some even with a dislike for organised labour.
Nevertheless, each year, May Day arouses the workers around the world to rekindle the memories of their forefathers who led the early struggles for the 40 hour work-week and much of what today’s workers continue to enjoy.
The unfortunate reality in today’s Grenada is that the Government of Dr. Keith Mitchell is leaving absolutely no stone unturned in its arsenal to dismantle the fundamental pillars of the workers movement.
So clever is Prime Minister Mitchell, that he has used the carrot effectively to entice and attract our most influential trade unionists, culminating in the easy capture of once self-proclaimed working’ class hero, Chester Arlington Humphrey – the prize was the colonial-robed President of the Senate; and oh’ how he loves it more than the British.
No longer is the once champion of socialism/communism/social justice Comrade Chester Humphrey on the side of our nurses, pensioners, teachers, and poor working people. Today President Humphrey is more anti-worker than the true capitalists in the Mitchell Government.
At Labour Day Celebrations in St. David on May 1st, Union leaders correctly called him out for what he really is today; and like Adam in the Bible, Chester Humphrey hid. He stayed clear of St. David. Nevertheless, Labour Minister Peter David, who was booed several times during his speech will surely communicate workers’ message of betrayal. All for greed and personal interest.
The booing of Peter David by the workers when he boldly claimed that the Mitchell government was the most pro-worker government in the aftermath of the revolution was an appropriate response.
Under Dr. Mitchell’s reign, the Public Service is rapidly increasing in contract labour and outsourcing of jobs, and decreasing in permanent jobs – a frightening precedent which is now being followed by the private sector.
Contract workers are dependent on their employer for survival, and therefore they avoid trade union membership and activities in fear of that employer.
The effective use of contracting and outsourcing has given Dr. Mitchell’s government political control of the public service workforce. Old as well as young have an allegiance to NNP for their daily bread.
The Ministry of Labour is at its lowest point in Grenada’s history – a Labour Commissioner in Cyrus Griffith who has long gone passed the retirement age; and is now on contract along with another aging, acting senior Labour Officer. Generally very ineffective!
Unions and workers will tell you that the Ministry of Labor under Peter David is a charade rather than a working institution.
Perhaps the most impressive Keith Mitchell trickery in his long reign as leader of government is his failure or refusal to seriously work to reinstate the Constitutional pension for public officers.
His government has enjoyed almost 25 years of political power since the collapse of the Bishop Revolution in 1983; and any doubts about his unwillingness to treat with that issue is that – having signed a Memorandum of Understanding on pension reform on the eve of the 2018 General Elections with the unions, once he regained political power, he reneged – leaving workers and more so those who joined the service after 1985 in despair.
The late Sir Eric Gairy is credited for using the power of the workers to impact their standard of living and influence in Grenadian society. Between 1951 and 1979, that’s when the Bishop coup ended his reign. However, on the contrary, Dr. Mitchell – 1995 to 2008 and subsequent periods in government, has fooled workers; and above all, made many of their leaders look like cheap mercenaries.
His unforgettable 1995 election ploy – a promise of no Personal Income tax on salaries under $60,000 against the advice of the IMF and World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and others, ended in economic disaster and less than two decades later Grenadian workers are back to paying personnel income tax and more taxes than in any other period in our 45 years of Independence.
Dr. Mitchell is the undisputed and deserving winner of taking ordinary workers into a fool’s paradise.
The message to the young workers specifically those under 30 is that Prime Minister Dr. Mitchell takes you on a journey that ends with the overwhelming majority left in emptiness, Yes, there are the privileged few selling passports and a handful of others enjoying the benefits of state contracts who see no wrong; but they too will one day pay a price.
(Ray Roberts is a former Senator for Labour in the Upper House of the Grenada Parliament)