One year into its five-year term in office, the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in St. George’s is facing its first potential unrest on its hands.
The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) has given the all clear to its members to start wearing red armed bands to send a signal to government that it is totally unhappy with the manner in which it was handling thousands of dollars owed to its membership in the form of back-pay.
In an address to the nation, President of the Union, Lydon Lewis announced that with effect from Wednesday, the teachers will be engaging in a limited form of protest action in order to send a message to government that the time had come for action.
He gave government until mid-day Tuesday (March 4) to indicate to G.U.T when payments will be made, “otherwise the Union will do whatever is necessary to have Government meet its commitment to the members of the G.U.T”.
“We wish to further advise Government that payment outside of seven (7) working days of midday of Tuesday 4th March will result in heightened industrial action by the Union”, Lewis said in the national broadcast.
Following is the full text of the address:
Fellow Grenadians, Brothers and Sisters, Teachers all, Good Evening:
I greet you today with a heavy heart, empty pocket and bitter disappointment. Our Government has yet again failed to deliver on its promise to the working people of this country.
Today I wish to address three (3) critical issues:
* The pending homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme;
* The breach of the Collective Agreement by the Government; and.
* The issue of the Lecturers at the T.A. Marryshow Community College.
The pending homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme
Brothers and Sisters, the impending imposition of the Structural Adjustment Programme with the I.M.F (dubbed locally as the Home Grown Structural Adjustment Programme) threatens to rip apart the heart of the Grenadian Worker.
While in principle the Grenada Union of Teachers is not opposed to the Government getting its fiscal house in order, and thereby taking the appropriate measures to do so, those measures should not be implemented at the demise of the working people of the country.
As a Union our fundamental role is to protect the interests of our members, and in so doing safeguard the development of our country. Before the GUT can sign on to any agreement with Government, we must have full details of the programme so that we can fully understand the implications for our members.
In that regard, we urge Government to treat the Union as a true partner in this process and not as pawns in their bid to get the I.M.F and World Bank funding.
As a first step in demonstrating our good intentions of working with the Government to design a Win-Win progarmme; we will soon be submitting for the consideration of Government our own Memorandum of Understanding; in which we will be outlining the specific measures and polices we think Government should implement if this programme is to receive full support from the GUT. We therefore reiterate our role as a partner in this process.
It must be stated that the slow pace of progress in this process is not the fault of the Union, but it is largely due to the government lack of disclosure of the elements of the adjustment programme.
The breach of the Collective Agreement by the Government
Brothers and Sisters, the failure of the Government to meet its payment to our members on time, has now become a recurring decimal. Our Union has been very patient and understanding with the Government. The facts will show that we re-negotiated the payment schedule in an attempt to give Government the time needed to make the payment. In other words, we have in good faith demonstrated kindness to our administration; but let it be known the Union kindness should never be construed as weakness on our part.
Friends, this is the third time Government has failed in its promise to deliver, and what make it worse is that on this occasion, the Government has given no date for the payment.
Moreover, we received this information on Tuesday 25th February; (3) days prior to the scheduled payment. This in our opinion represents a serious breach of trust; and it is outright disregard and blatant disrespect for the members of our Union and the Grenadian people.
The Minister of Finance and senior officers of the Ministry of Finance must have known before Tuesday that there will be a delay in payment and should out of common decency indicate to the Union that they are unable to pay.
Everyone in this country knows that teachers are the ones who are constantly asked, as public servants, to assist in the financing of their duties. Everyone in this country knows that teachers do not only budget for their families but that they also budget for the children that are in their care. Teachers provide bus fares, school materials, clothing, raise funds, repair schools and act as after school baby sitters. All parents complement our teachers for taking care of their children when they are unable to do so.
Therefore the money we receive as salaries are used to care for others and without those monies many school children will be left unattended to. As Teachers, we do not have the Heart to leave our school children unattended; we therefore ask Government to seriously rethink its present position of non-payment.
The issue of the Lecturers at the T.A. Marryshow Community College
The third issue that is of utter confusion to the G.U.T is Government refusal to honour traditional custom and seasoned practice of providing the budgetary support to the T.A.M.C.C so that the Lecturers there can receive their back pay. We are stunned as to Government rationale and cannot understand the reason for the non-payment.
The Lecturers at the College are our members too and therefore we must impress upon Government to make the finances available to the College, thereby avoiding low worker morale and subsequently industrial action.
My Brothers and Sisters, this is the time for affirmative action; we can no longer accept Government callous behaviour.
As a Union we have agreed as follows:
Give Government up to 12 (Noon) on Tuesday 4th March to indicate to the G.U.T when payments will be made, otherwise the Union will do whatever is necessary to have Government meet its commitment to the members of the G.U.T.
We wish to further advise Government that payment outside of seven (7) working days of midday of Tuesday 4th March will result in heightened industrial action by the Union.
In the meantime, the Union will begin our mild protest action to show that we have had enough; that it is time for the Government to show some respect and good faith.
Our mild protest action begins on Wednesday 5th March with the wearing of Union Jerseys and Red Hand Bands.
We call on all Teachers to join in this activity. Let us fight for what is rightfully ours.
Brothers and Sisters stand strong, remain focus on the cause!
Long live the Grenada Union of Teachers!
Long Live the Working Class of this country!
I thank you.