ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, November 24, 2018 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, has described the negotiations with trade unions, over the level of pension for retiring public servants, is “blackmail”, as trade unions warned of continued industrial action in the coming days.
“This is not negotiations, this is blackmail,” Mitchell told Parliament, last night, as he wrapped up the debate on the EC$1.1 billion budget, which he had presented, earlier this week.
“Our own kindness is beating us…for our love and kindness we are getting licks, today,” he said.
Trade, Industry, Co-operatives and CARICOM Affairs Minister, Oliver Joseph, told legislators that the unions have been promised a written response to their request, following a meeting, yesterday.
But he said instead of waiting for the Cabinet to meet on Monday to discuss the latest offer, the unions have called on public workers to remain home.
He said the unions are requesting no salary deduction and a 25 percent gratuity, instead of the two percent being offered by the government.
“You will think that the unions will wait for the Cabinet to meet before taking action,” he noted.
Earlier, following a meeting with the Pension Engagement Committee, the president of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis, sent a letter to the membership instructing them to stay away from work for the first three days of next week, and to also attend a march and rally on Wednesday.
“Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union will join the industrial action on Wednesday, with the inclusion of some strategic workplaces,” said the letter, which urged the workers to stand strong and continue the struggle towards pension and gratuity restoration.
“This is a battle to be won and we must keep on eyes on the price,” said Lewis.
Since November 5, GUT and the Public Workers Union (PWU) members have taken industrial action in support of their bargaining agents.
Prime Minister Mitchell, when he presented the budget, said that his administration remains committed to offering the best possible package to workers, within the context of the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
But he warned that acceding to the unions’ demands of 25 percent will cripple the country financially.
“It is simply not feasible, given our current project revenue stream, to meet these demands and, furthermore, to sustain them over the long term,” he said.
On Friday, Roman Catholic Bishop, Clyde Harvey, and Devon Rachael, president of the Evangelical churches, called on all stakeholders to go back to the negotiating table.
Students have also staged a demonstration, urging the parties to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.