The month of March is very crucial for the trade union movement in Grenada as two of the most influential public sector unions on the island are due to hold general elections in the coming weeks with the post of President on the line in both instances.
These elections are very important in light of the current impasse between the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and three public sector unions and two staff associations on the 25% issue of gratuity and pension payments due to public officers.
THE NEW TODAY gets the sense that the President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachael Roberts and her counterpart in the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) Lydon Lewis are expected to face some kind of a challenge from within their own Executives for their respective top positions.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Brian Grimes has already publicly announced his candidacy for the PWU Presidency and reportedly filed his Nomination papers on Friday to certify that he wants the top position.
There are reports flying around the country that GUT’s Lewis can face a similar challenge for his position from one of the current Vice-Presidents.
It is quite obvious that the Mitchell-led government would be closely monitoring the developments within these two trade unions and hoping that there can indeed be leadership changes in order to provide a platform for some kind of a negotiated settlement on the pension issue with new persons at the helm.
Speculation is already rife in the country that those persons pushing the so-called “Project Grenada” construct within the NNP regime are trying to use whatever influence they have from behind the scene to try and bring about leadership changes within both PWU and GUT.
President Lewis of GUT has been facing the brunt of the attacks from government supporters for the hardline stand being taken on the 25% issue and for ordering the street protest actions mounted by teachers in November to push forward their demands for payment of the money.
The PWU leader has also been singled out by Prime Minister Mitchell for a tongue lashing at a recent ceremony held for former PWU President, Adrian Francis who is retiring from the service on reaching the age of 60.
The ongoing dispute between government and the trade unions and staff organisations on the pension and gratuity payment issue has been proving to be more of a political headache and nightmare for the Prime Minister than the battle he faced a year ago from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) whom he defeated 15-0 at the polls on March 13, 2018.
The Prime Minister is fully aware that his own supporters are up in arms against him as many of them are public officers and affected by his recent decision to dock their salaries for taking strike action.
For weeks, the Grenadian leader was forced to rally his support base and hold meetings in different parts of the country on a twice daily basis as the 25% payment issue threatened to engulf the entire country and his government.
The issue is far from over. It still has the potential to cause rippling effect for the government in the years ahead.
It is against this background that THE NEW TODAY is looking at the challenges to the two incumbent trade union Presidents – Lydon Lewis and Rachael Roberts – by members of their own executives.
It is rather unfortunate that when both the PWU and GUT should be demonstrating solid unity on behalf of their membership that cracks are beginning to emerge in their ranks.
The architects of “Project Grenada” are not sleeping and will be taking careful note of what is taking place and happening within the two unions.
This newspaper can see the hands of one of the main players of “Project Grenada” lurking in the dark of the night and trying to influence the outcome of the elections in both unions.
THE NEW TODAY is mindful of the clandestine attacks from within “Project Grenada” on both Roberts and Lewis as trade union leaders out of the belief that they have outlived their usefulness and should give way to a new and emerging generation of young leaders.
Is there a hidden agenda for these attacks at this point in time? Why were these statements not made in February 2018 – less than two weeks before the March 13 poll when the leaders of PWU and GUT joined with others and signed onto the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the pension and gratuity issue that virtually sealed the election victory for the NNP?
This newspaper has always held the position that the public sector unions allowed themselves to be “outfoxed” and “out manoeuvred” on signing onto the MOU without having in their hands a firm and binding agreement for the 25% payment.
This newspaper is calling on the membership of both PWU and GUT to demand of those vying for offices in next month’s union elections to outline their positions on the 25% pension and gratuity payment issue in very clear language.
The various camps must tell the workers within PWU and GUT how they intend to deal with government on this vexing matter that has so far left a sour taste in the mouths of thousands of public officers in Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
The workers cannot afford to be fooled a second time within a year on an issue which can either guarantee that when the time comes to leave the government service and go into retirement that they do not continue to remain poor and marginalized and thus secure a comfortable and reasonable life for themselves and their families.
The time is right for serious business and not “ole talk” to get votes in the GUT and PWU Presidential elections.