The time has come for the leaders of those public sector unions to face the reality – the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government will not give in to them on the 25% gratuity and pension payments for all qualified public workers.
The unions will have to seriously rethink their strategies and come up with a new action plan in the circumstances as they will not get what they want around the negotiating table with the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) led by Cabinet Secretary, Beryl Isaac.
THE NEW TODAY is in full support of the position taken by the unions not to go into arbitration on an issue that is of a constitutional nature that can only be permanently put to rest by a court of law.
This paper sees the only sensible and realistic route available to the public sector unions in the circumstances is to immediately take the matter to the Constitutional court for a quick hearing to get a ruling once again in their favour on gratuity and pension payments.
It is clear that the government is not negotiating in good faith and the unions have the power in their hands to bring an end to the charade that is taking place in the name of negotiations.
There is already established legal precedence on how a matter of this nature can be filed and brought before the constitutional court for hearing to get an important ruling again on the pension and gratuity issue that concerns thousands of public officers.
The unions will have to get only one public officer or teacher who has retired post 1985 or is about to retire to bring the Constitutional high court action against government for their pension.
The court will give priority and an immediate hearing to any constitutional motion filed as opposed to other ordinary high court matters.
It is quite possible that if the unions move quickly that the matter can be filed and heard by the Constitutional Court before Christmas and a ruling given hopefully in the New Year as a present to public officers.
This ruling from the Constitutional court will clear up once and for all the myth by government that to pay the 25% will interfere with the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) as signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This is a glorious opportunity to test the theory being advanced by two of the government’s mouthpiece, Acting Attorney General Dr. Lawrence Joseph and Senator Kim George that public officers post-1985 are not legally entitled to pension and gratuity payments.
This view is not held by many other legal minds in the country including persons who once occupied high legal offices with the current government.
Government continues to hide behind the IMF-supported FRA as the reason for its stubbornness in not wanting to give in on the 25% demand of the public sector unions as it will interfere with “the progress” made by the 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Evidence is now emerging that the government went on an election frolic in the days leading up to the March 13 general election to sign documents with the unions on Pension Restoration and Reformation without understanding the financial implications.
The IMF in a May 2018 bulletin said the following: “The government’s electoral promises on pensions and health care benefits are not explicitly incorporated into the baseline forecasts since they have yet to be costed (and, in any case, the authorities intend to honour the FRL expenditure rule)”.
It is clear that Prime Minister Mitchell was only bent on signing the agreement with the unions in the middle of the night in order to win the general election and did not pay any attention to the cost factors involved in pension and gratuity payments to public officers.
Is this the same Dr. Mitchell who got the award a few weeks ago as Finance Minister of the Year? Is that the stuff of what Finance Ministers are made of in today’s world?
Everyone knows that any act of Parliament such as the FRA that is in conflict with the Constitution then that act will be declared as null and void by a proper court.
All public officers should call on the President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachel Roberts, as well as President General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Senator Andre Lewis and President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis to end the tomfoolery with government called negotiations and take the pension and gratuity issue immediately to the constitutional court for a quick hearing and ruling.
The unions should meet and discuss among themselves a formula to be used in sharing the legal cost of going to the Constitutional Court to try and win a permanent victory for its members.
Why would the unions not give serious consideration to spending a few thousand dollars to try and win millions in gratuity and pension payments for affected public officers who have been paying their monthly subscription fees to the said unions? Union leaders, please do not be penny wise and pound foolish.
This pension and gratuity matter is a debt which government has contracted with public officers and the FRA is only intended to keep government in line with all its debt obligations including pensions and gratuity.
The Constitutional Court must declare whether the FRA is bigger than any of the Constitutional provisions covering debts owed by government to public officers.
The impasse is a constitutional matter and the unions should let the court meeting in its constitutional jurisdiction hear and determine the matter in the interest of all past, present and future public officers.
Finally, as we go into the final days of the holiday season, The Management and Staff of THE NEW TODAY newspaper wish all peace, joy and blessings of Christmas and may it last throughout the new year.