Francis: Economic situation poses many challenges

“What we would like to see is the continuous employment of our members.”
Those were the words uttered by the newly re-elected President of the Public Workers Union (PWU),  Adrian Francis who last week Tuesday beat back the challenge of Dr. Malachy Dottin and another contender for the top position in the union.

Speaking of the challenges ahead, Francis cited the country’s “current economic situation” as one of the “major challenges” to be confronted in going forward.

However, he said, he would be doing all he can “to ensure that there is job stability and no job loss amongst the membership” during his tenure.

The PWU boss also expressed hope to see improvement in the economic situation, which he noted has been “adversely affecting the Union in many ways.”

“We are hoping that this economic situation that we are in presently would improve, because it seems that everything that the trade union would like to see for the workers, for instance, increased salaries and better working conditions etc, etc, are all based on the economic situation,” he remarked.

Francis pointed out that “governments throughout the world” like the one in Grenada, “are finding it very difficult to find monies” to provide for “better working conditions for workers and also to provide additional employment to those persons who are leaving schools every year.”

He lambasted the decision of the two year old New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to introduce an Attrition Policy at this time, in which for “every ten workers that leave the government service, only three would be employed.”

The attrition policy has been identified by the regime as a critical cost-cutting measure implemented under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) supported Home Grown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) geared at reducing the wage bill – a major component of Government’s expenditure.

“What that (the Policy) is saying,” Francis argued “is that it doesn’t mean that if three nurses or three doctors leave the medical field or the Ministry of Health that three nurses or doctors would be employed to replace those that have left.”

He said the PWU is “looking to see what is the best way the policy could be used to ensure that the right areas (are) always supplied with the relevant staffing based on the policy.”

It is alleged that the newly elected PWU president, who also serves as Assistant Clerk of Parliament is being considered for the position of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, where he was employed for a number of years.

Speculation is rife within certain union quarters that if Francis is elevated to the rank of PS that a conflict of interest could arise if the workers which he represents get involved in an issue with the line ministry that he heads.

In commenting on the issue, the re-elected PWU head said: “My first interest is the workers.

He went on say:  “I have not received a letter of appointment (to the post)”.

According to Francis, the “PS position is not one that is applied for” but is “something that you are appointed based on your performance and service throughout your career.”

The Permanent Secretary post is second in seniority to the Cabinet Secretary post, which is the highest elevation of office in the public sector.

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