GRENADA-Public Servants on Strike To Demand 25 Per Cent Pay Hike

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Public servants Tuesday vowed to remain off their jobs despite the decision of the Keith Mitchell government to withdraw an application for an injunction preventing them from embarking on industrial action in the ongoing dispute over the payment of pension and gratuity.

Their decision came even after Labour Minister Peter David met with the unions representing the workers for three hours on Monday night.

Public sector workers and tecahers demonstrate in the capital on Tuesday (CMC Photo)

“Members we are staying home tomorrow,” said Rachel Roberts, president of the Public Workers Union (PWU) during a march and rally.

President of the Grenada Union of Teacher (GUT), Lydon Lewis, echoed similar sentiments, saying “members we cannot return to classroom unless we get equal rights and justice”.

He said that the struggle is about justice that will ensure that public servants don’t retire to a life of poverty.

“Pension and gratuities are a right, what we are fighting for should have been a given,” he added.

Workers have been staging work stoppages since November 5, when the government said it could only offer a gratuity of two per cent. But the unions say they will only accept a 25 per cent offer in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution.

Section 92 of the Grenada Constitution states”with respect to any pension benefits that were granted to any person before this section comes into operation, this shall be the law that was in force at the date on which those benefits were granted or any law in force at a later date that is not less favourable to that person.”

Prior to that provision, the 1958 Pension Act provided for public officers to receive a gratuity of 25 per cent after working in the public service for 33.3 years.

However, in 1983 the then People Revolutionary Government (PRG), which suspended the Constitution, approved the Pension Disqualification Law which came into effect in 1985 following the 1984 general election. Negotiations were also held to reduce the number of years from 33.3 to 26.6 years a public service can serve before retirement.

Last weekend, the government said it would file an injunction to prevent essential services workers from taking protest action. The matter was originally scheduled to be heard on Sunday but was pushed back to Wednesday.

“The government of Grenada has notified the Registrar of the Supreme Court that it is withdrawing its application for an injunction filed against the trade unions. The move is intended to facilitate the recommencement of the negotiations between Government and the unions,” a government statement noted.

It said that David and Labour Commissioner, Cyrus Griffith worked late into the night on Monday meeting with the trade union leaders in an attempt to get them to return to the negotiating table with Government’s Pension Engagement Committee (PEC).

“Examination of the MOU did not reveal any agreement on the payment of 25 per cent gratuity at the point of retirement from the service and when the PEC placed a two per cent gratuity with a 98 per cent pension on the table, the unions walked away in protest,” the statement added.

It said that at the end of the three hour meeting, David was able to reach an understanding with the unions that, having lifted the threat of an injunction, the PEC will set aside its two per cent offer and that “the issue of the gratuity and discussions of how much gratuity and possible permutations of payment to ensure compliance with the FRA will be discussed.

“Minister David was tasked with getting the PEC to communicate that in writing to the unions and it is expected that talks between the parties will resume on Friday morning,” the statement said.

It said that “now that the threat of the injunction has been lifted, unions likewise are expected to get workers back to work so that negotiations can resume”.

David said he was confident that a resolution to the impasse could be reached soon.

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