Former Sports Minister, Patrick Simmons has added his voice in defence of teachers in their 25% gratuity struggle with government, which has resulted in the cancellation of this year’s INTERCOL Games and the announcement from the Keith Mitchell-led administration announcing that it will stage a replacement National Secondary School games in March.
One (1) day after the Grenada Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (GAPSS) announced the cancellation of INTERCOL 2019 in light of the ongoing impasse, Education Minister Emmalin Pierre disclosed at last Monday’s post-Cabinet press briefing that government took a decision to hold the substitute event.
However, Simmons, a former school principal, who served as a Sports Minister under the 2008-2013 National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas, expressed the view that this move by government, lacks respect and regard for the institutions that should be governing the country.
He said the cancellation of INTERCOL falls in line with the position taken by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) to “work to rule” following intense strike action late last year, which resulted in the docking of the salaries of teachers and public officers a few days before the Christmas holidays.
“You see what is happening there is a clear indication that those in authority are not showing any regard and respect for the institutions that should be governing the country,” Simmons told THE NEW TODAY in an interview following a joint press conference last week Tuesday with Political Leader of the Grenada Progressive Movement (GPM), Terrence Forrester at NDC’s new head office at Mt. Gay, St. George’s.
Simmons said: “So you (the government) decided that you (are) going to dock the salaries because teachers withheld their labour… if that is the case then you are in a position to solve the problem because the teachers are saying look, you docked our salaries so, as a result we are going to work to rule.
“If you (government) call the teachers together and you meet them half way (and) find a solution to the problem, some resolution, the problem could be solved and if the problem is solved, then the issue that we are having about no INTERCOL and so forth would be a no, no,” he added.
The former sports minister and Member of Parliament for the St. Andrew’s South East constituency, stated that “the ball is in the court of both the union and the government,” adding “I believe that the government has a greater role to play in solving that problem”.
According to Simmons, the “issue of the docking of the salary is something that the government has to address,” noting that “it’s not something that was done in a manner that is reflective of who should and should not but something that was arbitrarily done”.
“… I want to believe it was done because of anger”, Simmons said, adding that the regime obviously took the position, that is what you (teachers) did, so this is what I am going to do in retaliation to what you did”.
When asked his position on the substitute sporting event by government, the NDC executive member pointed out that if he was a member of the current administration, “with the background that I have with education and sports, I would not have sat in a Cabinet and take decisions of that nature regarding the docking of teachers pay and now to proceed to have some other games outside of the INTERCOL”.
“I would have preferred to be an MP (Member of Parliament) and not a Minister at a time like that. So, I would have had to make a tough decision on whether or not I want to serve on a ministerial position or just be an MP and I think I would have chosen to be an MP,” he declared.
The GPM Political Leader who approached NDC in an effort to jointly bring attention to the Intercol issue, labeled the problem as a “governance crisis” and calling on the Mitchell-led regime to “do better in terms of governance.”
“I am here today to inform the general public that we need to do better within our governance…we seem to have a crisis of governance today. We seem to have a crisis of leadership and therefore we are calling national attention to this situation,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
“The postponement of the upcoming (Intercollegiate) games is no easy feat. It impacts the entire nation. it impacts negatively on parents who are anxious to see their kids excel at the games, on the children themselves who have worked hard to accomplish their feat at the games, on the economy with vendors and small businesses, medium-sized and large businesses, who look forward to these games in the selling of their various products,” he said.
Forrester pointed out that the forced cancellation of Intercol “impacts negatively on the nation because the entire nation comes together in attending to the games and they look forward to the games and the prospective winning school”.
“The parish looks forward to that success and they have that special feeling in that community that that school in the particular parish has succeeded,” said the GPM leader.