Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is keeping Grenadians guessing as to when he will announce the date for the next general election that is constitutionally due no later than May 2018.
There is widespread speculation that the polls will be held later this year. In the 2013 general election, Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) won all 15 seats in the elections defeating the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the party of then prime minister Tillman Thomas.
But as he addressed a public meeting here on Sunday night, Mitchell, said he would most likely announce the date after his administration, trade unions and other stakeholders reach agreement on the issue of pension for public officer issue.
He told the meeting that the pension issue is one national issue he wants to see resolve before he calls the general election..
“When the Pension Disqualification Act was enacted in 1983 many of our workers in the public service was dealt an uneven hand, government goes, Government comes (and) that issue was never dealt with and as a country all of us must take responsibility for this,” he said at the meeting that coincided with the closing event of the convention of the Women’s Arm of the NNP.
“In other words the governments of the past including NNP will take responsibility , but our people, the trade union movement, the business community, all of us are guilty to some extend to not having dealt with that issue long before,” he said, while explaining that his administration is working with all the stakeholders to reach a solution as quickly as possible.
“We hope and pray that with the consultation taking place that can be dealt with and a solution can be found, not necessarily finding all the monies to pay but a solution pointing to the way forward before the next general election is called, so that is the commitment from the New National Party, that is the only party that have seen to it that this is deal with this,” he said.
Mitchell told the public meeting that although the Grenada constitution provides for established workers or those appointed through the Public Service Commission, the aim is to have a pension for all persons, including those deemed to be “un-established workers” and who would have worked within the public service for an extended period.
Some trade unionists here have said that the Pension Disqualification Act does not affect un-establish workers, noting that under the regulation, any un-establish workers who serves for 15 continuous years shall be provided with monthly ex-gratia payment.
The law also provides for any worker who serves the Public Service for 10 continuous years to receive a pension from Government.
In April 1983, the then People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) led by Maurice Bishop passed legislation providing for the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to pay pension based on contributions.
However, the Grenada constitution provides for all established public officer be provided with a pension upon retirement and although the Constitution was suspended by the PRG, the Pension Disqualification Act was never repealed when the Constitution was restored in 1984.
Since then hundreds of public officers have retired from the service without a government pension.
The High Court recently ruled that the government pays the pension and that the money received from the NIS must be returned. The matter had been taken to court by the Public Workers Union (PWU).