The people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique should fully be aware by now that the impasse between the ruling New National Party (NNP) government and the trade unions and staff associations on the pension and gratuity issue will be a long drawn out affair with either side having a lot to lose.
A lot of fuel has now been added to the fire following the recent announcement from the association grouping School Principals that the body took the decision to cancel the 2019 Intercol games due to the ongoing dispute between the two sides.
As expected, the government reacted swiftly with an announcement of its own that it will be stepping in to fill the gap with the hastily organised so-called National Secondary School games.
THE NEW TODAY cannot offer any serious comment on what the government is actually doing as the plan has not yet been fully rolled out to the public for scrutiny.
However, it is really difficult to see the government games going ahead smoothly and successfully without the full participation and involvement of the school teachers and the principals.
In the past, these are the people who played the key roles in putting the systems in place to ensure the staging of the individual school sports and the actual Intercol run off.
If the athletes decide to boycott the government-run games in solidarity with their principals and teachers will Education Minister Emmalin Pierre take action against them?
This newspaper would ask the additional question – what kind of action can the minister take against the students who might engage in boycott action?
Equally important is the following question – will some of the parents encourage their children to stay away from the government games as a show of support to the principals and teachers?
The students would also be mindful of the fact that if they defy their principals and teachers and side with the government and take part in the track and field meet it is not Minister Pierre that they would have to interact with on the following day in school but the very principals and teachers.
The government might be putting the students in a very uncomfortable position by going ahead with its plans to stage a National secondary track and field meet in the face of the cancellation of Intercol by the association of secondary school principals.
The fact of the matter is that Intercol marks the culmination of the athletic season for the schools as the cream of the crop take to the track and field to bring glory in both the boys and girls division to the power house schools like GBSS, PBC, SAASS, AHS, St. David’s Secondary and the athletes from the sister isle.
The event also provides a platform for athletes to excel and gain a place on Grenada’s team to the Carifta games.
Even at this stage no one is certain about the individual schools holding their own respective sports meet in the face of the “Work to Rule” by teachers in accordance with a directive from their bargaining body, the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT).
It is quite noticeable that there has not been students running on the streets and taking part in the many cross country runs for their houses as part of the build up to their own sports day due to the “Work to Rule”.
Some fuel has also been added to the impasse between the Mitchell government and the public sector unions following a meeting held last week between the Education Minister and newly appointed Attorney General, Guyanese Darshan Ramdhani and the principals.
The information coming out from the meeting was not good as some of the principals were not happy over the alleged attempt made by the AG to try and school them on the law in a very arrogant and rude manner as if they are not sensible and educated enough to understand their own rules of engagement in the public service.
The Minister and Ramdhani might have been engaged in an “ambush” exercise as the school principals did not have a legal counsel of their own to counter the legal points that the AG rightly or wrongly advanced to them during the course of the engagement.
The word in some quarters is that several Cabinet ministers are not happy with the current state of affairs between the government and unions but are afraid to openly voice their concerns due to fear of Prime Minister Mitchell.
As one minister was heard telling a party supporter after the docking of the pay cheques of the striking teachers, Dr. Mitchell has certain strong views on the issue and no one is prepared to raise an opposing hand towards him.
It is also clear that Prime Minister Mitchell does not want to come out of this mini-crisis with a bloody face as it can help to weaken him politically in the eyes of many Grenadians despite his back to back 15-0 victories at the polls in 2013 and 2018 as part of his legacy agenda.
The ongoing saga is devoid of politics and the Prime Minister has found himself in a battle on a money matter with teachers and school principals – some of whom might even be among his most ardent and loyal supporters.
This is not a battle involving the NNP and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) with the whipping boy being Nazim Burke who has now slipped into political oblivion and is no longer a target for Dr. Mitchell to rally the NNP’ite troops and party base.
The opposition parties should continue to remain on the sideline and refrain from jumping into the battle and turning it into a political football which can only benefit PM Mitchell who is a master at political street fighting.
As the battle lingers on, the other 14 NNP elected Parliamentarians would be mindful that at some point they have to renew their mandate and approach the very teachers, school principals, public officers and their extended family members for the “X” in the ballot.
The message is apparently not clear enough for the current rulers – fighting fire with fire will not cut it in the current scenario.