Commentary

Extend an Olive Branch; Refund the Docked Salaries 

It is now well over a year since teachers quite properly embarked on work to rule in protest of Government’s illegal docking of salaries in retaliation for teachers exercising their right to take industrial action over the vexing issue of pension rights. These pension rights have been denied teachers and all public workers since 1983.

It is not the intention of the NDC to do like the NNP administration and turn this matter into one where political parties score cheap points. However, we will be remiss if we do not express our deep disgust with how government has to date handled this matter, treating our teachers with utter disrespect and contempt.

The government is well aware that the Cabinet of Ministers has no constitutional or other authority to unilaterally deduct moneys from teachers’ and public officers’ pay in retaliation for industrial action. Mitchell and his Cabinet are trying to discipline and manners teachers but this is the prerogative of the Public Service Commission only. In the most- high handed and vile manner, the Public Service Commission was left out
of the process and its role usurped by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

When public grandstanding and open threats did not work, Mitchell, Pierre and their colleagues resorted to intimidation through the offer of a $500.00 bribe to the teachers who did not participate in the industrial action; and a demand that the brave teacher who sued government for illegally docking her salary to withdraw her case from the court before everyone is refunded their docked salaries. This brazen intimidation is designed to divide and conquer the union and beat the teachers into submission.

As was expected, teachers saw right through this NNP administration’s deception and overwhelmingly rejected the clandestine offer. They elected to continue with their work- to-rule rather than fall prey to Keith Mitchell and Emmalin Pierre’s objectionable tactics which is impacting the extracurricular activities in our schools. The NDC commends the GUT for the stance it took in the face of dangling temptation.

We call on the government to return the monies deducted illegally from the teachers as a first step in restoring stability in the Education Sector. The failure of the Keith Mitchell administration to work with the teachers union and other stakeholders to find an amicable solution sends a very clear message that they are prepared to neglect the young people of our nation

Our teachers play a significant role in nurturing our young people, sometimes way beyond the call of duty. Thus, this shoddy and disrespectful treatment of teachers shows how little this NNP Government cares about the education of the nation’s children and youths.

Thus, the overwhelming rejection of the government’s proposed agreement by teachers is a clear indication that the approach taken will only make a bad situation worse. That is why the NDC urges the government to extend an olive branch. Refund the docked salaries without condition and work to rebuild a relationship of trust and confidence between government and teachers and government and public workers. This prolonged
impasse is only hurting the future of our country – our children.

This is the school term of athletics and dozens of schools should have had their sports already. The continued work to rule protest is causing this not to happen this year and only the government is to be blamed for this.

NDC commends the religious leaders who have privately engaged the Prime Minister and his colleagues in an effort to bring an end to this impasse.

In a democracy, the observance of the rule of law and adhering to fairness, principle and decency is more important than being driven by ego and vindictiveness. Therefore, a better Grenada requires a leader and government that values and upholds these ideals. So while we call on government to shape up and end this egotistical ride, at the same time we salute our teachers and Public Officers for standing up to intimidation and bullying.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

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