The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) is prepared to give support to the 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the Keith Mitchell-led government but not if retrenchment of public sector employees is part of the deal.
THE NEW TODAY newspaper has obtained a confidential copy of the position paper being prepared by the union to take to its general membership around the island.
“The GUT is strongly opposed to the idea of retrenchment”, said the teachers body in the document.
According to the document if the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Mitchell is forced to resort to retrenchment then certain conditions needed to be set.
One of the conditions being set by GUT is a reduction in government’s budgetary allocations to the controversial Imani programme.
The one-year old Mitchell government has spent in excess of EC$6 million on the programme since it came into office on February 19, 2013.
Government officials have repeatedly said the programme is needed to provide “hope” for young people who make up the bulk of the unemployed in the country.
Speculation is rife that the promises made by the NNP to the young people to secure their votes at the polls were largely responsible for its crushing 15-0 win in the general elections.
As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces the document drawn up by GUT, headed by Lydon Lewis in response to government’s SAP:
Throughout the region governments as far back as the 1970’s have approached the International Monetary Fund to assist them is solving their chronic balance of payments issues. Consequently, the programs adopted by these countries were based on their needs and the type of facilities available from the Fund.
The Grenada Union of Teachers is fully aware that any country seeking these facilities first has to satisfy the Fund’s rigid criteria to access assistance both from the Fund and the World Bank. We further acknowledge the fact that when national governments borrow money from international sources they lose their sovereignty.
In principle we see the need for a Structural Adjustment Programme since primarily a structural adjustment programme is mainly about a country trying to live within its means.
We note that it would have been better if the programme upon which we are embarking was driven by strategy rather, than as it is now, being led by crisis.
Yet, we deem such a programme to be necessary since the consequences of non-adjustment would be untenable, however the following must be noted.
(1). We need a FULL DISCLOSURE of the conditions under which the Fund will be accessing its assistance as is usually set out in the President’s report. Without this pertinent information the unions are handicapped when it comes to making proposals that would soften the blow that its members may take during the period of the Programme.
(2). The Union should be clear on the Performance Indicators so that the unions and its members can monitor the success or lack thereof.
(3). Unions should be a part of the Monitoring Team
The following represent the positions and ideas that the Executive of the GUT will take to its members as it responds to the Home Grown Structural Adjustment Program;
(1). In the event of a three year wage freeze, government must commit to compensating the worker for his sacrifice in the fourth year. This compensation at minimum should be an increase that matches the rate of inflation for the years of the freeze.
(2). The fact that increments for teachers are legislated under section 156 of the Education Act, 2002; government shall not attempt to withhold same from teachers eligible to receive these payments throughout the duration of the Home Grown Program. Moreover, the GUT must ensure that this section remains untouched with the current proposed amendments to the Act.
The GUT is strongly opposed to the idea of retrenchment.
IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT THAT RETRENCHMENT IS TO BE CONSIDERED THE FOLLOWING MUST BE NOTED:
(a) Government should implement a voluntary severance program which will allow persons within the public service who wish to leave to do so first, with their relevant severance packages and other benefits intact.
(b) Subsequent severance should be offered to persons 55 years and over in the service; who may not have otherwise seek severance but may be so inclined based on the package offered.
(c) Government must significantly reduce the amount spent on the Imani training program and possibly invest the funding into efforts that can increase employment opportunities for the youth.
(d) The hiring of retired personnel with exorbitant salaries to perform duties which can be done by persons within the public service should cease. These include the Commissioners of Police and Prisons to mention a few.
(3).Government should conduct an audit of all its public assistance programs to ensure that no duplications occur and that persons accessing these facilities constitute the target group(s) for the various programs.
(4).Government must demonstrate its commitment to cost cutting measures by capping its spending on political appointments and increases in Ministers’ salaries and allowances.
(5).It is a time to reconsider the size of government and the executive arm of government should be made smaller and more efficient as part of the shared sacrifice. In this way the government would be leading by example.
(6).The G.U.T recognises that this is an era when the needs of the country must be considered ahead of political expediency and this administration has to demonstrate same; not with just mere words but also with actions and sound decisions. The Union would be vocal and forceful if and when the best interest of the nation is sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
(7).The G.U.T is willing to work along with the other trade unions and civil society to share information and dialogue on the structural adjustment programme.
(8). The G.U.T. is not adverse to suspending negotiations which would have already commenced for the period even with the government making an offer of a marginal increase in salary to all teachers represented by the G.U.T.
(9). The G.U.T. recognises that this structural adjustment cannot be solely concerned with reducing government expenditure and is willing to join with civil society to engage the government on frank and open discussions on the following:
(1). Promoting economic growth and alleviating poverty
(2). Promoting the openness of the economy
(3). Improving efficiency in resource allocation
(4). Improving scope for private sector development
(5). Strengthening institutions and capacity for policy analysis.
Albeit, this is by no means and exhaustive list; it represents some of the critical areas that can constitute a protocol or memorandum of understanding with the government for the duration of the Structural Adjustment Program.