Controversial Trade Unionist Chester Humphrey has once again re-iterated his commitment to what is being promoted by the Keith Mitchell-led government as Project Grenada.
“I am on board”, was the bold declaration made by Humphrey at a constituency forum that was attended by Prime Minister Mitchell and other government officials at the Belair Government school last week Tuesday night.
The one-time bitter opponent of the Grenadian leader said he was fully behind “Project Grenada” because of government’s decision to create jobs for CCC workers who were on breadline for 55 months and at the same time giving its commitment to honoring the retroactive payment to public workers.
According to Humphrey, a former member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) until he was expelled nearly two years ago amidst bitter in-fighting, he has now decided to fully “throw in my lot with Project Grenada”.
“I am (a) firm supporter of Project Grenada. Who wants to say that I sell out that’s their business,” he said.
Humphrey who is the President-General of the Grenada Technical Allied Workers Union (TAWU) told the participants at the constituency forum that he still defends workers despite claims in some quarters.
The Trade unionist suffered his most humiliating defeat last month when workers at Independence Agencies voted in massive numbers not to support TAWU’s bid to be recognised as their bargaining agents.
Humphrey used the “Project Grenada” platform being promoted by the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration to appeal to workers in the country to redevelop a culture for work.
He said that people in Grenada have now developed a culture of hand-outs and dependency although the government has a social obligation to help those who cannot help themselves.
However he noted that even those who cannot help themselves they too can do something to help themselves, “and we have to develop a culture of work again in this country.”
During his presentation, Humphrey, a former Grenada Senator, addressed the current job situation in the country by making specific reference to the banking sector and the loss of jobs.
He referred to First Caribbean International Bank which closed its office on the sister isle of Carriacou at the end of July, and plans by RBTT to cut back on its operations in the country shortly.
Humphrey whose union represent a host of bank employees in the country, said that by the middle of August, the RBTT Bank in Grenville will be closed down, with all of the workers including those in the managerial level being sent home.
He also pointed out that RBTT will be closing its branch in the city of St. George’s, and will operate just one branch in Grand Anse.
“There are colleagues who don’t understand the stand that I take because I look around and see jobs being lost,” he remarked.
Several local trade union leaders are now at odds with Humphrey given his open support for Mitchell’s regime in recent months.
During the 2003 and 2008 general elections, Humphrey had showed interest in frontline politics as a potential candidate for Congress first in the Town of St. George Constituency (2003) and in St. George South-east in 2008.
NDC selected attorney-at-law Peter David, now a full member of NNP as its candidate for the town of St. George for the 2003 general elections and clergyman, Pastor Karl Hood for St. George south-east for the 2008 poll.
The trade unionist also made mention of the closure of Grand View Inn which has 65 rooms and the loss of employment for the workers.
He expressed fears that if the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) initiated by the cash-strapped Mitchell government fails then Grenada could be in serious problems.
“We are losing jobs. We lost a lot of jobs in Cable & Wireless. We are losing jobs in RBTT, the Bank of Nova Scotia… First Caribbean …. ten Percent of the workers regionally are going home.. and so we are losing jobs,” he said.
Humphrey has also opposed a critical component of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) – a desire by the Mitchell administration to get NIS to grant its request for a “50 to 60 percent haircut” on monies owed to the state-controlled body by government.