Re-elected President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachel Roberts has said that her immediate priority is to work for unity within the ranks following the bruising battle leading up to the election.
Roberts was challenged for her position by the outgoing Public Relations Officer (PRO), Brian Grimes who campaigned for weeks in the local media to try and unseat her.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Roberts admitted that the recent PWU election was one filled with division and that the first thing on her agenda would be to unite the new Executive so that there will be effectiveness in fighting for workers rights.
“The first thing on the agenda is to be able to bring members together, unite members, because we had an election that was one that was filled with malice, that was filled with a little sensationalism and filled with, as Mr. Trump said, fake news”, she said.
The female PWU boss pointed to a number of “falsified information” that came out in the public domain during the campaign which “really created some division and some hurt on the part of persons when that campaign was actually happening”.
Without calling names of who were engaged in pushing propaganda to gain election, Roberts said that “I always try to run as clean as possible a campaign” and “not malign anyone, but just stand firm on truth and integrity”.
“…Now that all of the campaigning is over and we have a team of persons, we need to ensure that that team gels and that team works together and that we do not have a team that would be one of confusion and conflict that we cannot speak, we cannot attend to the issues that are affecting our membership. We must ensure that we have a team that works together, united on the issues of our members because the important factor here is the interest of members; that is number one,” she said.
THE NEW TODAY understands that at least three members of the new PWU Executive were on the slate put forward by Grimes who lost the battle for Presidency against Roberts.
Grimes came under heavy criticism during the campaign as the favoured candidate of “Project Grenada”, a grouping of leftwing revolutionaries who are now part of the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The newly formed PWU Executive is: Rachel Roberts as President, Dr. Devon Francis as 1st Vice President, Arthur Pierre as 2nd Vice President, Paula Phillip as Treasurer, Agatha Alexis as Secretary, Daisy Hazzard as Public Relations Officer (PRO) and Deanna Isaac and Margaret Goddard as Assistant Secretaries.
According to Roberts the last two years was not enough time to achieve all that the previous Executive wanted to achieve in terms of the struggle of nurses and doctors, to the fight for pension for public officers.
Contract employment, she said, continues to be a challenge and this will be one of the areas that will be tackled by the new Executive.
“The vision of the union is to seek to get its members regularised as much and as far as possible and we know that government has the unjust law – the FRA (Fiscal Responsibility Act) – that stifles the unions from being able to achieve the benefits for the workers that they could be regularised easily.
“We would not allow that to stop us, we would continue to work at the table. First and foremost, we believe we must be at the table working and we have certain meetings once a month with the Government of Grenada that we believe we can utilise to be able to discuss HR (Human Resource) issues, and to be able to work with the Government of Grenada first and foremost to get as much of our members regularised.
“We know that there must be some form of equity across the Public Service and there must be fairness in the treatment of workers across the Public Service and we would be advocating also for fair treatment, for equality, for equity in the treatment afforded to our members as afforded to other members.
“We have other strategies – which I would not want to disclose at this time – that the union is going to be looking at. We know that section 29 (5) of the Labour Code clearly specifies if you are operating within a position of importance, of critical need for the organisation that you are said to be in a permanent position because the services that you provide are essential for that organisaton, meaning that they cannot do without those services and we must hold our employer accountable for that law and to be able to keep the law.
Roberts identified the continued fight for 25% gratuity and pension payment for public officers, as well as better health and safety at the work place as some of the issues that will occupy the new Executive in going forward.
The PWU has already announced that it was seeking to bring a “Class Action” lawsuit against the Keith Mitchell-led government on behalf of public officers to press their demands for the 25% issue.