Former Labour Senator, Raymond Roberts, has exhorted workers on the island to “double check” and ensure that they are not getting “another election pie” from the current government as it relates to the issue of pension for public workers.
Roberts was referring to promises made by the ruling New National Party (NNP) to fix the 35-year old issue of pension for qualified public officers.
The Keith Mitchell-led government has been under pressure from public sector unions – Public Workers Union (PWU), Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) – to finally resolve the pension issue in light of a court ruling in favour of the workers.
According to Roberts, the restoration of public workers pension is a “fundamental and solid core value of the NDC” and with the impending election in mind, the workforce should be mindful of the many unfulfilled promises made by the NNP of Dr. Mitchell prior to the 2013 general election and encouraged them to be wise.
Roberts, the Candidate in South St. George for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), made the statement Monday at the party’s first press conference for 2018.
Speaking at the NDC headquarters in St. George’s, Roberts recalled the “promises” of thousands of jobs by the NNP but unemployment is still 30% and the would be investors are still “lined up” to come into the country.
The NDC Candidate also addressed the issue of contract workers in light of the move by TAWU to get contract work addressed at the state-owned National Water & Sewerage Authority (NAWASA).
Roberts pointed to the Labour Code, which defines contract labour as “seasonal work.”
“I am saying to the workers (to) demand that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted when it comes to contract labour…”, he said.
“We must not allow the state to turn permanent jobs into contract labour”, Roberts said, while expressing the view that “in most cases it’s for political reasons.”
The former General Secretary of the Grenada Trades Union Council (TUC,) who helped to champion the plight of workers for more than 19 years, saluted the TAWU leadership for their fight to get contract workers permanent at NAWASA.
Expressing grave concern with the increasing number of contract workers in the public service, he said that while some of the affected workers at NAWASA, who have been employed on contract work with the state-owned body for 20, 30 odd years, would have received some gratuity, “it is when they get to the age of 50 or to the golden age 60 when their viability regarding employment would be questioned.
“That is when the problem occurs (when) you really don’t have the capacity to acquire a job unless you are in a profession that is in great demand,” he remarked.
“Clearly, the increasing numbers at NAWASA is alarming,” he said, adding that when a person is employed on contract, the employer can do the employee “just about anything.”
Roberts holds the view that, “regardless to your political affiliation, workers, (especially) in this election year, ought to make their voices heard.”
He urged “all workers in Grenada to take note of what cannot be allowed to continue…”.
“The challenges facing today’s work force requires men and women and in particular our young workers to be committed, passionate and dedicated to the struggle – clearly protecting the collective rights of all workers,” he declared.
“It certainly bothers me that we are in a country today, where contract labour is certainly proliferated and it is the young workers who are impacted most negatively because they are the ones who are going to be parents and leaders,” he said.
Roberts stated that while NDC is not opposed to contract labour but “when you turn permanent jobs into contract labour that is of great concern.”
“Permanent jobs must always be permanent jobs,” he said.