By Linda Straker
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, October 18, 2017 (CMC) – Public workers returned to their jobs, today, ending two days of industrial action in support of their unions demand for the Grenada government to conclude negotiations for the 2013-16 period.
The unions have promised to issue a statement on the matter, but public relations officer of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Brian Grimes, confirmed that the unions had called off the strike.
“Next time around the strike action will be much more impactful, based on strategic changes we will make going forward. It is far from over, we understand this is a struggle together,” he said, even as the unions contended that the industrial action was successful.
Grimes warned that the unions are not prepared to accept the government’s offer.
“It cannot be over, the joint negotiating team is adamant, we are determined and we will never sign on to a 650 figure for the structural adjustment period,” he said.
Last weekend, the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and the PWU both announced plans for the industrial action over the failure to pay compensation to workers during the period when the island was implementing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) sanctioned package.
The workers walked off their jobs on Monday.
The unions had originally sought EC$2,000 as a one-off payment for the period 2013-16 but reduced their demand to EC$1,500 after they accepted a payment of EC$1, 000, earlier this year, with an assurance from the Keith Mitchell government of a possible increase in July.
The government has offered EC$650 but the unions have described that amount as “insulting” to the workers, who they said made sacrifices during the period of the structural adjustment program.
During that period the public servants also did not receive any salary increases and during the negotiations for the period 2017-19, the government offered a one-off payment of EC$1000 praising the employees for the sacrifice.
Other bargaining agents, including the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Grenada Maritime and Manual Workers Union (GMMWU) accepted the amount for its members but it was refused by the TAWU and PWU. There were instead demanding EC$3000.
Earlier in the year both unions reached a partial agreement with the government to accept the EC$1000 and to re-establish negotiations in July if the fiscal space allowed. The unions then reduced the demand to EC$1,500 instead of EC$2000 from the original request.
On Monday, the government Negotiating Team (GNT) described the strike as “disappointing” and that the unions had rejected the mediation effort of the Minister for Labour to settle the dispute of the one-off payment to public service employees.
Prime Minister Mitchell told a news conference, yesterday, that he was “very hopeful that common sense will prevail and we will see an end to this impasse”.
Mitchell said that if his administration agreed to the demands of the union, it would place an additional financial burden, of approximately nine million EC dollars, on government expenditure.
He said he feared it could also result in the government losing millions in debt relief, while violating, at the same time, the fiscal responsibility legislation.
“I cannot and will not do anything that will injure our ability to get debt relief…we ought not to do anything that will interfere with our opportunity,” Prime Minister Mitchell added.