The old saying, “a hurried bird never builds a good nest” is the best way to describe the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by those representatives of public sector employees and the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in the dead of the night just before the March 13 general election.
THE NEW TODAY has often questioned the motives of both sides to rush into signing the MOU when all the dots, T’s and I’s were not properly put in place as a full-proof document for the next phase of the discussions to hammer out a final deal on pension and gratuity.
The government is now relying on the fact that the 25% proposal was not in the MOU as its comfort zone in trying to win public sympathy in the current situation following industrial action taken by both the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Public Workers Union (PWU).
The strike action especially by teachers is having an effect on hundreds of working parents who have to make alternative arrangements for their children who are forced to remain home in the current situation.
Government is fully aware that TAWU has not taken any serious action yet in the impasse as this is the union that can bring the country to a virtual standstill by ordering its membership to engage in “Solidarity Strikes” at the airport, seaport and other key areas like electricity and water.
This newspaper holds the view that Prime Minister Mitchell and the likes of Peter David and Chester Humphrey were anxious to see an agreement signed with the unions prior to the elections because the sole objective was to get re-elected into office and to keep the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) under the leadership of Nazim Burke in the political wilderness for another five years.
The government is not foolish but tricky and engaged in tomfoolery as it knew beforehand that a 25% deal on pension is impossible given the Fiscal Responsibility agreement signed on the insistence of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
It is clear that the 25% that was put before the union in a separate document by head of the Government Negotiating Team (GNT), Cabinet Secretary, Beryl Isaac was a carrot that was only dangled in the faces of those union leaders to get them to sign the MOU as quickly as possible before the March 13 polling day.
It is now emerging that the leadership of the government was assuring the trade union leaders that money was no longer an issue in paying the pension and gratuity as Grenada now had access to plenty money because oil and gas were found by the Russians.
Eight months after the unions were clearly duped and out-foxed by government on the MOU. Where is this money from oil and gas?
It is absurd, immoral and totally wrong for any government to use the national resources of the country especially oil and gas as a bargaining chip with one sector of the country in order to stay in power since Grenada belongs to all of us and not solely NNP which is interested in a one-party state set-up on the island.
The resources of Grenada should not be allowed to be used in such a vulgar manner and selfishly traded by the NNP government of PM Mitchell and Energy Minister Gregory Bowen as some kind of an early Saturday morning sale in a saltfish shop.
Minister Gregory Bowen did not even tell Grenadians about the current status of their oil and gas business but choose the platform of the NNP annual convention to announce that the Russians do not have money and were now going to the Chinese for cash to follow through on the oil and gas exploration.
The union leadership should have been fully aware that they were entering into negotiations with a political directorate that understands power and would resort to any and every means possible to win at the polls.
And the NNP now backed by the “Project Grenada” team of Peter David, Chester Humphrey and the others cannot be taken lightly when it comes to hatching under the table plots and schemes to hoodwink the nation including trade union leaders to achieve their objectives.
The unions should be mindful of the total silence now of the Labour Minister, Peter David in the current impasse. Why?
This 25% pension and gratuity issue should also be seen in the context of the emerging evidence that the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is not financially sound these days and is believed to be paying out more in benefits to the Working Class than it is getting in contributions.
The last report from the Actuary on the NIS should be put on the table as part of the discussions on the way forward between government and the unions on the pension and gratuity issue.
The unions would be doing a disservice to their membership if they do not get all the pertinent information on the current standing of NIS and bring it to the attention of the workers since that will have serious implications for retiring workers in the years ahead.
This is all the more important as the same government is trying to get NIS to become part of the National Health Insurance Scheme which could further deplete its financial resources.
This newspaper is convinced that the government leaders out foxed the union leaders on the MOU and were deliberate in duping them just to win the elections.
The NNP regime used a similar ploy that was played out against late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy on the eve of the December 1984 general elections when an airline ticket surfaced showing that Gairy had purchased a ticket to fly out of the country before the election out of fear.
The union leaders should also be cognisant of the role now being played by one of their former colleagues who is working with government to undermine their cause.
THE NEW TODAY has information that cannot be disputed of that individual calling certain persons in the media to try and influence them on what to put out to the public and in what form and manner on the current impasse between government and the unions.
The Chester Humphrey/Peter David alliance with Prime Minister Mitchell gives truth to the saying that in politics there are no permanent friends nor enemies.