“Tell Oliver (Joseph, the Minister of Economic Development) we want we money”, “It’s home we going and we want we money and we want it now”.
Those were some of the chants coming from workers of the Grenada Postal Corporation (GPC) as they protested outside their head office at Burns Point on Monday morning in the wake of plans to retrench over 100 of them.
The workers came out dressed in their Union T Shirts, with placards and banners and accompanied by officials of the Grenada Technical and Allied and Workers Union (GTAWU) and the Public Workers Union (PWU).
Over 130 GPC workers are facing retrenchment by September 30 as the loss-making state-owned body continues to grapple with a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) initiated by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration.
During the protest action on Monday, the two Unions indicated that retrenchment will not be part of the discussion at the moment unless the authorities address a number of burning issues.
1st Vice President of GTAWU, Andre Lewis and President of PWU, Adrian Francis, indicated that they are seeking resolution in matters of increments, pension and salary increases due to workers.
According to Lewis, the protest action relates to the outstanding issues and not retrenchment.
“This is an initial show of public protest over the failure of the authorities to address a number of outstanding matters – certainly increments for workers who are due”, he said.
“The question of salary increase, that has not been addressed for a while now, the question of pension has been outstanding for quite a while now, the Corporation has agreed to pension and for a number of years they have not made any contribution towards that, so we want these matters addressed and we need them to be addressed urgently,” he added.
In June, GPC wrote to TAWU and PWU notifying that several workers will be retrenched in three months.
The union officials confirmed that a meeting was held to facilitate discussions between the Postal Corporation and the Union but government has not given any plausible reasons for possible retrenchment.
Lewis is adamant that retrenchment will not be discussed unless the workers are given what is due to them like severance payments.
“As far as we are concerned there is no issue of retrenchment until all of these matters have been dealt with. So in our mindset the Government and the IMF have nothing to do with us – they can have their own plans, there would not be any discussions on retrenchment unless these matters that I’ve identified here have been addressed”, he told reporters.
“…So we are here (protesting) simply for our pension issue to resolve, our salary increases to be addressed and the outstanding increment matters to be addressed,” he said.
When asked what could be the reason for Government’s delay in making the payments, Lewis’ said: “(I) just think that they’re inept, just as usual, I mean it’s Government, what do you expect?”
President of the PWU, Adrian Francis feared that too many persons would be affected if the authorities do not address these matters of increments. “There is no plan, now if you haven’t addressed the problem with the increases, the increment and the pension…we are saying to the Government address these issues before you come to that date (September 30) but a lot of things have to take place before”, he said.
“The workers are in a quandary, they don’t know who will be staying, who will be going and this sort of uncertainty is not good for the workers here. Productivity has dropped, the Postal Corporation recognises that their workers are in limbo,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
The Unions indicated that the protest action which was also held in Grenville was going to be one day in the first instance as they seek an immediate resolution of the outstanding issues.
The unions sent a letter dated August 14, to the head of the Board of Directors of the Postal Corporation, Veda Bruno-Victor, which was signed by both Presidents Adrian Francis and Chester Humphrey to warn of the consequences of the impending retrenchment on the livelihoods of the workers.
The letter reads in part: “Madam Chairman, it is important to bear in mind that the subject at hand is the termination of employment of over 130 workers occurring in an economy where there are little or no prospect for employment, and where the majority of employees are women.
“…There may be no need to detail the socio-cultural impact of this unfortunate development as it is well known that $10.00 of a woman’s salary positively affects the family more than ten times of its value, conversely, the loss of salary of a woman has a concomitant negative-effect on the family”.