Industrial action may be brewing in the Spice Isle as the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) has expressed disgust with government’s lack of commitment to promises made to their membership.
GUT President, Lydon Lewis has accused the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of attempting “to pull wool over the union’s eyes” with respect to a number of promises made to them at a meeting held in January.
Lewis told reporters at a press conference in St. George’s that plans are in the making for protest action at the Financial Complex on the Carenage to send a message to the administration with respect to long overdue pension to retired teachers.
“…The GUT has already begun discussions with some of our retirees asking them whether or not they would consider picketing the Financial Complex and most of these workers that we have spoken to they have indicated that they’re willing to do whatever it takes so that government would honour their years of sacrifice and commitment to the country”, he said.
“We have a situation where all animals are equal but some are more equal than the other because you can start one month later than a worker and one worker would walk away with pension and the next worker would not,” he added.
Lewis also took issue with government over its failure to make available to the union a copy of a report done by CARTAC, an arm of the World Bank on public sector reform in Grenada.
He said GUT had co-operated with the Mitchell-led government on facilitating CARTAC’s work.
“We were also promised a report from some specialists that came in from CARTAC. To this day the report as we understand from our sources is available and was tabled to government and the Ministry of Finance.
“The Union still awaits a copy of that report or any indication as to what the (report) entails. This to us is very disappointing, bearing in mind that we willingly joined government in that meeting. There was no resistance by the labour movement to work together with government to discuss the issues of pension but as the GUT continues to say our position is simple, pay our pensions.
The GUT boss told reporters that retirees on the island are very dependent on their pensions to survive as some are sick and in debt.
Another borne of contention, Lewis said is a fringe benefit proposal that was submitted to government in March for consideration.
He said a letter was sent to the union acknowledging receipt of the proposal but nothing further was heard from government.
“In light of this, the GUT would be very proactive in that process and not reactive. We have scheduled a series of meetings with our members beginning Monday and we are going to try to attract as many of our workers as possible to put them in high alert as to government’s disregard to the Union. Our members would indicate to us what action should and would be taken,” he remarked.
Additionally, the President said the union is still facing the issue of non-payment of increments as government is dragging its feet in giving an indication when the workers will receive their due.
According to Lewis, the union was given a timeline of March for the figures to be made available by government but it is yet to receive it.
“To this day, we are yet to receive any further concrete information from government regarding increments. They have not said to us when the increments would be paid, they have not given us a timetable and we are in the middle of May”, he said.
“…We say to government that if you do not keep your commitment by June you would not see the best of the workers of the Grenada Union of Teachers because government has attempted to take six months, the first half of the year to prepare for these payments and we are well aware of where the monies are coming from,” he added.
Lewis urged government to refrain from being ungrateful to the workers of Grenada.
“We are the ones who have made the sacrifices for the last three years so that they can now boast of economic growth and financial prudence. We are the ones paying the increase in all sort of taxes and therefore, I want to remind them that there is a saying that ungratefulness is worst than Obeah,” he said.
Mitchell’s NNP was forced to enforce a structural adjustment programme (SAP) in 2013 with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in which public sector wages were frozen for three years in order to tackle a severe fiscal crisis facing the island.