This weekend could be very crucial for the industrial relations climate in the country.
The ball is clearly in the court of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to engage the representatives of public sector employees to settle the issue of the one-off payment.
There is a lot at stake for the leaders of the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) as the impasse continues to unfold.
In the case of TAWU, its President-General, Andre Lewis is very much on trial as this is the first major national issue he is facing since taking over the leadership from Senator Chester Humphrey.
Mr. Lewis has inherited a union which many see as being on the decline in terms of militancy given Humphrey’s about turn politically and going into “bed” with his one-time bitter enemy, Prime Minister Mitchell.
The island is watching to see if the new man in charge of TAWU is a “stooge” of Humphrey or whether he is independent enough to make his own decisions.
PWU’s Roberts has so far managed to keep at bay some elements within her own union who are plotting with “the enemy” to bring her down and to push the union on a course more in line with the current political directorate.
THE NEW TODAY senses that TAWU and PWU would move swiftly this weekend if the Mitchell-led government does not put a more reasonable offer on the table in order to bring an end to the impasse.
The next course of action could be solidarity strikes in which workers in other key and important sectors of the economy like electricity, water, port, and airport would be put on notice to get ready for battle.
A major player could be the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) if teachers were to take strike action as many parents would be forced to look at alternatives for their children while they go to work.
The tone of the Prime Minister at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing seems to suggest that Dr. Mitchell has lost touch with reality.
Apart from the top managers in the civil service, contract workers and the Imanis, the operations of government were badly affected as a large number of public sector employees took part in the 2-day strike.
This newspaper is doubtful that anyone within the current NNP setup can talk to their leader on shifting from his position as outlined during the press conference.
Dr. Mitchell is seemingly still gloating over his 15-0 victory over Congress in the 2013 general elections to put alongside the previous whitewash of the opposition in 1999.
It appears that even the 7-0 defeat that the NNP government suffered in the November 2016 Referendum on Constitutional Reform did nothing to wake him up to a new dispensation in the country.
The administration has contributed somewhat to the current dilemma with the unions due to its own actions, behaviour and posturing in recent years.
In the face of a biting Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), the Prime Minister ensured that his Press Secretary, Kisha Grant got a salary increase of $1000.00 per month and the Imanis were given a $300.00 top up per month while civil servants got zero in the last 4 years.
The Constituency Allowances of each of the 15 Government Members of Parliament were significantly increased and in the case of the Member of Parliament for St. George North-east, Tobias Clement his take home pay is roughly $13, 000 from St. George’s University and another $7, 000.00 from government.
Another bone of contention is the thousands of dollars paid each month to Dr. Lawrence Joseph for the newly created position of Advisor to Parliament which was seen as “Jobs for the boys”.
In light of the current situation, THE NEW TODAY is issuing a call to the newly elected Roman Catholic Bishop, Clyde Harvey to use his good office and get the Conference of Churches of Grenada (CCG) to intervene and help broker a deal in the one-off impasse.
Bishop Harvey is well-positioned to get the two warring sides around the table as opposed to some in the CCG who are seen as too “compromised” and mere “stooges” of the current administration.
The new Catholic Bishop is well-respected and his background and experience as a priest in Trinidad and Tobago in the volatile Laventille area of Port-of-Spain is a plus in helping to broker a deal between government and the two public sector unions.
It is our view that Bishop Harvey should be directly involved in the process and can be trusted by both sides.
THE NEW TODAY is now of the view that the sooner Dr. Mitchell calls the general elections it would be better for the country.
Let the people decide if they want to continue with the status quo and a leader who at 71 might be going fast downhill or look elsewhere for new and more youthful blood.