Marching in their varying colours, and their striking display of placards, hundreds of workers in Grenada took part in the traditional May Day parade to raise a number of issues affecting them at their various workplaces.
May Day Celebrations were held in the parish of St. George this year under the theme “Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Advancement”.
Seven Trade Unions were involved in the day’s activities – the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU), Grenada Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union (GSWWU), Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (CIWU), Grenada Manual, Maritime and Intellectual Workers Union (GMMIWU), Public Workers Union (PWU) and Bank and General Workers Union (BGWU).
The workers marched from the Tempe Playing Field to the National Cricket Stadium where speeches were delivered by the Minister of Labour, Peter David and the various trade union leaders.
PWU retained the title for marching for the third consecutive year thus affording them the privilege of keeping the trophy.
The tone for the speeches was set by President of CIWU, George Mason who called for unification of all workers in order to get their issues dealt with.
“When a teacher or a public officer or a cook in a school is not paid on time, we must voice our concerns regardless of who is in power. That is why we chase the NDC and put NNP and more NNP but it seems like the new NNP is like the maligned NDC”, he said.
Mason reminded workers that once there is unity among them, they will never be defeated.
“…Sisters and brothers we have to unite…this is the day we celebrate as the day we won the right to work for eight hours and anytime after (you) get overtime. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget that. Remember you have to protect your democracy, you have to protect your interest and we have to unite, we have to press together,” he admonished the workers seated at the cricket stadium.
President of the Public Workers Union (PWU) Rachael Roberts told workers the fight continues for more benefits for members despite agreement on the one-off payment with government.
“Workers, no man is an island, we need each other to overcome the oppressors of labour, the oppressors who have seen it to prevent public sector workers from free and fair collective bargaining”, she said.
The female union leader noted that public officers have been able to make advances but there is need for government to stop stifling the public service through contract work and to provide workers with the opportunity to obtain long-term loans from commercial institutions.
“…If we do not unite to prevent a mashing up of the public service and our statutory bodies, our children’s future will be at risk”, she said.
The Keith Mitchell-led administration has often been accused of trying to resort to contract work in order to usurp the powers of the Public Service Commission (PSC), the body responsible for hiring public officers.
In his May Day speech, President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis called for togetherness on the part of the unions in the fight for the repeal of the section within the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation which speaks to fiscal space.
“…That section…that limits…the fundamental rights of Trade Union must be repealed. We ask that all Unions stand united and we call upon our new Minister for Labour to help to get our negotiations back to being free, fear and just,” he said. Lewis urged teachers to stand united to have those promises offered by government be delivered to them.
“They promised the development of schools, and some of the schools are yet to be touched, two years in the making. They promised to regularise and they have not completed the process. Teachers still have not received their negotiated benefits that were signed to in our collective bargaining,” he said.
The issue of contract work was also addressed by the Assistant General Secretary of TAWU, Shirlene Herbert.
She said: “…The demand is made for all employers to stop the practice of contract work, make the workers permanent and give them decent work. We call upon the NNP government stop the practice of contract work. We call upon Caribbean Agro Industries to stop the practice of contract work. We call upon Cable and Wireless to stop the practice of contract work. We say make the workers permanent so that they can improve their quality of life and standard of living. Comrades let us all commit to the struggle to male contract worker permanent”.
The May Day activities also included local entertainment, a fashion show, live band music and comedy