“My friends I am so pleased that you are exercising your constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression. This is credit to all of us…it might be well if we can do it mutually.”
Those were the words proclaimed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Labour, Elvin Nimrod, in response to the crowd of workers, who jeered at him on Labour Day in St. Patrick.
A cross section of the crowd ripped into the senior government minister as he spoke of government’s commitment to protect the poor and vulnerable in the country at the 2016 May Day rally at the Fond Pasture.
Despite the 3-year old Keith Mitchell-led government “is cognizant of the great debt that all sectors in the economy owe to the Trade Union Movement”.
“We are also aware of the central and continuing role that the labour movement plays and continue to play in the continuing development of our country…”, he said.
“…We (are) also committed to doing the best we could to protect the poor and most vulnerable in our society,” he added.
In the face of the jeers, the No.2 man in the NNP administration told workers that his government is committed to working closely with the trade union movement and other key stakeholders out of a conviction that “the challenges faced by Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique (today) can only be solved through harnessing the best efforts of every sector of our society.”
The Labour Minister also placed on record his “government’s sincere thanks and gratitude for the sacrifices made by all of you.
“You are making the sacrifices of course, for your great country of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” he said.
This is an obvious reference to the austerity measures introduced by Prime Minister Mitchell in increasing taxes in order to raise additional revenue to address the island’s fiscal situation.
Minister Nimrod, who is also Deputy Political Leader of the Keith Mitchell regime, also used the platform to inform workers that NNP knew the situation was bad when it was campaigning for the 2013 general elections to get back into office but did not realise that it had deteriorated so much.
“We knew that the situation would have been very difficult and dire for us (but) it was only when we actually took office however; we realized just how things were”, he said.
He added that his “government has never wasted time trying to blame the previous administration for the difficulties that we face (as) that would have been wasted”.
This statement met with another round of hissing and jeers from the crowd of workers that flocked the grounds.
When the noise abated, Minister Nimrod reiterated that his “government wasted no time in blaming the previous administration for the situation we are in.”
He emphasised that “like any programme of adjustment the homegrown adjustment (Structural Adjustment Programme) calls for sacrifice.”
The Labour Minister pointed out that, “despite the hard times and the financial challenges, we (government) have not utilised the option of severing public servants”, which he said is in stark contrast with what happened in other countries in the region.
“We were also clear that we would not compromise investment in our future expenditure…we were also committed to doing the best we could to protect the poor and most vulnerable in our society…
“…The government believes that we have turned the corner and that the shared sacrifices that the population have borne, have started to bear fruits for the sustainable development of our country.
Minister Nimrod warned workers that it was important that “we stay the course and do nothing that would cause those sacrifices to be in vain.”
He also announced that Grenada is due to ratify a number of ILO conventions this year to preserve workers rights.
He said government is expected to ratify three International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions geared at further preserving the rights of workers and trade unions in the country.
“The Workers’ Representative Convention, which will be ratified in 2016, will protect workers representatives and preserve the interest of workers’ in their work places”, he said.
Minister Nimrod told the gathering that his “government is (also) aware that certain groups of workers are especially vulnerable to violations of their basic human rights and the rights to equity and opportunities.”
Another convention that will be ratified is the ILO “Domestic Workers Convention.”
According to the Labour Minister, once this convention is ratified his “government will move speedily to amend the necessary legislations to ensure that the rights of domestic workers are respected and observed.”
In this light, Minster Nimrod said his “government is committed to improving the conditions of employment for public officers.
“We have over the last year undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing their lives. Among these is the regularisation of the status of 205 temporary teachers…government will and is continuing this process,” the minister added.
He outlined several other areas including “the upgrading of a number of nursing assistants to the status of registered nurse,” which he said was done despite the home grown structural adjustment programme but will allow them “to earn income and gain experience.”
Additionally, the ILO’s Repatriation of Seafarers Convention is also slated for ratification this year.
This convention provides for the repatriation of seafarers in various matters, in case of death at sea.
Since becoming a member of the ILO in 1979, Grenada has ratified a total of 32 international conventions, which ensure that workers’ rights are protected.
The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, Equal Remuneration, Abolition of Forced Labour, Minimum Age, Discrimination on (Employment & Occupation) and Worst Forms of Child Labour, among others.
Minister Nimrod also announced that the revised Labour Code Bill will be introduced to Parliament for consideration this year.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the revised Labour Code contains three (3) sections/Bills relating to Employment, Labour Relation and Occupation Safety and Health (OSH).