Public Relations Officer of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Brian Grimes has accused the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government of playing “political games” with salary increases for government workers and warned that the situation could deteriorate.
Grimes made the statement against the backdrop of claims made at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing by Minister of Health, Nicholas Steele that he is not aware of a “Go Slow” action taken by civil servants.
He said the government is clearly sending a message that public officers do not understand the strength of their collective will.
“We will soon find out in the coming days and weeks, if that theory is true or false…”, Grimes told THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
Speculation is rife that PWU and the other union involved in the joint negotiations with government – the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) – might turn to other trade unions to engage in “solidarity strikes” at workplaces in order to resolve the issue.
Grimes accused the administration of engaging in “hypocrisy” by claiming on one hand that they want the situation to be resolved but at the same time seems not willing to bend their arms to make it happen.
“They can either comply with the compromises of the trade union movement, and create a beautiful reconciliation or they can continue to climb the ladder of arrogance and create the genesis of a bitter ugly public divorce”, he said.
The joint PWU/GTAWU team has been laying the blame at the feet of the Mitchell government for refusing to resolve the matter of salary increases, which has been ongoing for approximately three months.
The government had proposed a one-off payment of $1000 to Public Officers for the period 2013-16 which the Unions rejected and counteracted with a proposal for $3000 for their members.
Government is insisting that it cannot shift from its position as a result of the Fiscal Responsibility (FR) legislation signed as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that does not allow them to go beyond what they are offering.
The PWU and TAWU resorted to “go-slow” action at workplaces following receipt of a letter that incensed them by Labour Minister, Oliver Joseph, himself a former PWU executive member.
According to Grimes, the letter from the Minister of Labour sought to portray the image that there is no unity within the public service.
“The Unions (are) doing the work and doing all their heavy lifting in trying to come to a resolution. In fact, as a part of their grand standing, they (government) have congratulated the newly elected Executive of the Public Workers Union, stating their desire for the resolution to be had; congratulating the new elected President Rachael Roberts as a Trade Unionist but in terms of making these things come to fruition – the true genuine social partnership – their actions belied their words,” he said.
He charged the Mitchell-led government with continuing to play its political games on the issue and although PWU is not necessarily known for militancy, it is capable of doing so if the need arises.
He said: “Time and time again it would have proven that the joint negotiating team would have done their best to try and reach a compromising end to this saga but the government obviously is playing games. They do not believe that the public officers have intestinal fortitude or the trade unions want to strike. They are correct in the fact that we do not want to strike but I believe that the Unions know that it would be a miscalculation because we would definitely use that card if we feel we are being disrespected and clearly at this point in time the Government of Grenada is playing political games and just games in general with the good nation and good intention of the joint negotiating team and the hard working productive team workers of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.