The Alliance of Evangelical Churches has added its voice to the ongoing impasse between government and public sector unions on the contentious issue of a 25% gratuity payment due to public officers including teachers as part of their pension package.
The churchmen made a call at a press conference in St. George’s for a consensus to be reached on the issue by the two parties and decided to set aside a day of prayer to bring an end to the conflict.
Executive Members of the Alliance told reporters that last Saturday was the day for the prayers at 10.00 a.m. at the Springs Open Bible Church, aimed at getting government and the unions to reach an amicable solution to the issue.
In the appeal for there to be prayers over the situation, the Alliance called for wisdom to prevail, and for the parties to return to a place of stability and peace.
Second Vice President of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches, Devon Rachae said the matter needed to reach a resolution soon as the nation’s students stand to be affected immensely.
“We believe that we cannot continue indefinitely without negotiations. We cannot continue indefinitely without a semblance of willingness to fix and to come to some level of consensus and therefore in the interest of our nation and particularly in the interest of the students of the nation, we think that there is a need now to put aside differences, whether it be egos whatever else may be getting in the way and to return to the negotiating table…”, he said.
“…We also would like to appeal that this matter needs to be treated with as a matter of urgency in terms of reaching a resolution. We are very much knowledgeable in our various congregations – there are students who are preparing for CXCs, there are students who are preparing for CPEA…who have been affected by this and therefore we believe (that a ) very swift resolution is necessary at this time”, he added.
According to Rachae, a former Senator with the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, it is not the intention of the church group to lay blame at any one feet for the industrial impasse.
He said: “We hear the positions of the various parties and we are not here to say that we agree with one position or the other but we are here to say that in the interest of all and in the interest of the nation that we need at this time for the parties to come and sit together and to negotiate”.
Pastor Rachae stated that the Alliance is advocating for parents, students, teachers, public workers and the Mitchell administration to find some semblance of comfort in a solution.
This is so, he said because people in the country are very concerned about the situation and “I believe that we are very concerned with peace and stability in the nation and so people are very concerned obviously in some quarters there is a level of frustration that this issue is dragged on for such a long time and it has been a while we have seen a protest of this magnitude and of this extent.”
The impasse has been going on for nearly one month and the unions in recent days had threatened to escalate their protest into solidarity strikes that could have crippled the essential services in the country.
First Vice President of the Alliance, Joache Phillip called for “mutual heads” to meet on the issue.
“There should be a mutual party and when I say mutual party we understand non-political, non-partisan and not swayed by popular opinion. So, we’re standing in the middle and saying that we don’t want to put our heads as it relates to a side. We have both parties in our congregation in most of our churches, we have teachers and you have politicians (and) as a minister of the gospel we tend to stay on the side of justice and mutual positions, hearing the both sides and bringing some sort of the conclusion to it”, he said.
President of the Alliance, Pastor Esther Baptiste raised concerns about the psychological effects the impasse was having on many persons in the country.
She said: “In the aftermath of all of this we will see the stress and we understand how people respond to stress and the secondary issue that could spin off this whole situation could be more and could be heavier than the situation. So, we’re looking at another psychological feedback…and so the church will have to respond…we may resort to violence…we’re looking also at how this affects people psychologically and the ability to cope and respond to growing issues and if we look at that at a national basis…we see a cult taking place and happening in our society. So, we want to be not reactive but proactive”.
Speculation is rife that talk of “cult” is in reference to Prime Minister Mitchell who many has accused of becoming arrogant and dictatorial with his political record of three clean sweep of all 15 seats at the polls
Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of St. George’s, Clyde Harvey also pleaded for a resolution to the impasse and for government and the unions to return to the bargaining table.