The island’s three leading public sector unions have sent a strong warning to the Keith Mitchell-led government to prepare for industrial action for failing to keep its promise to deliver on gratuity payments to its membership.
The leaders of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) hosted a joint press conference on Monday to announce that a major industrial crisis is looming after government reneged on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with them on gratuity payments and pension payments on the heels of the March 13 general elections.
The MOU was signed by PWU, GUT, Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) Gazetted Officers & Welfare Association, Her Majesty Prison Welfare Association, and TAWU on February 19th, 2018.
Agreement was reached with the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) on a 25% gratuity for public officers upon retirement, together with pension benefits for persons who entered the public service on a definitive or permanent basis as of April 4, 1983.
The unions have now accused the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of going back on the promise of a 25% gratuity in the MOU and now reducing it to 2%.
First Vice President of GUT, Kenny James outlined to reporters the massive reduction in the financial package to its membership as a result of the new position being advanced by government.
He said that a worker who was due to receive $36,067.50 under the 25% agreement is now entitled to only $2,885.00 under the 2% offer.
“Moving from 25 (%) to the meager two – it means that whatever you are getting cannot even pay off your mortgage, it cannot clear any debt that you may have…”, he remarked.
President General of TAWU, Andre Lewis told reporters this 2% proposal now on the table by government would not be taken lightly by the unions and gave strong hints of industrial action on the horizon.
He said: “We will determine our own strategy and tactics as to whether or not we use all our auxillary at one instance or whether or not we send out different units at different times and we will determine that and we will determine what is in the best interest for us to achieve our objective.
“Our objective is clear, there is absolutely no doubt, our objective is clear and precise. It is to get a resolution to the question of our gratuity and our pension and it may mean that we may all do something together, it may mean that we send out different units at different times but we are the ones who shall determine that,” he added.
GUT President Lydon Lewis warned that industrial action is on the table for its members to decide.
“Teachers so far have said a resounding no…no compromise on the issue of gratuity. We have a clear idea as to what we (will) do and we have no way of relenting the pressure because we understand that’s the only thing government understands – the force of the working class.
“…The GUT and the other unions are prepared to struggle but the teachers of course, they have indicated to their leadership that they are prepared to struggle and to get what is rightfully theirs.
President of PWU, Rachael Roberts stated that her union is also leaning towards industrial action as public officers will not accept the 2% now before them.
She said: “Public Workers Union and its members have always clearly stated that pension is important and serious to us and gratuity is critical because gratuity helps us in a number of ways in our twilight years and we shall not go home in poverty.
“So, when the call comes, we know that our public officers would stand ready to answer that call, whatever the call may be. We had a mass meeting, our members were updated and our members are clearly aware that we do not and would not allow our government, our employer to give us a 2% gratuity”, she added.
The Mitchell-led government has often stated that it was willing to share some of the gains that came from International Monetary Fund-supervised Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) with its Social Partners for their support and co-operating with the belt-tightening measures that were undertaken.
Under the programme, the salaries of civil servants were frozen for three years and several of them who were previously exempted from paying income tax were now swept into the net.