The poor turn-out on Wednesday by teachers to what was billed as “The Mother of all Marches” has serious lessons to many in Grenada especially those in the trade union movement and the operatives in the political landscape of the country.
THE NEW TODAY is not convinced that the rain that came during the protest march was largely responsible for the dismal showing by teachers in the event.
It is clear that the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) fell down on the critical issue of mobilisation of teachers for this latest aspect of their struggle on the 4% salary increase issue with the Keith Mitchell-led government.
The current leadership of the union failed to see that Wednesday was too soon a time period to stage such a protest action in light of the long Easter Holiday.
It is quite obvious that the teachers and those who were expected to come out to swell the numbers had a long Easter and needed more time to get better organised and more mobilised for this show of support to send a strong and serious message to government.
This protest march should have been held at least two days later on the Friday when workers will fully understand and appreciate that the next day was the weekend and they had enough time to rest after marching in the streets.
Timing is very important in anything especially in political struggles.
The union leadership needs to understand that the 4% issue is not merely a bread and butter matter involving dollars and cents but also a political one as the fight is against a political regime whose members will see things in a political context.
It is a political decision and gamble taken by Prime Minister Mitchell not to honour the 4% commitment that the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration had agreed to pay public sector employees with effect from the end of January 2021.
The Prime Minister is cognizant of the fact that he is entering another election cycle and is playing for time with the unions until he can mobilise the funds that are needed to pay the 4% increase to teachers.
This is the particular context in which the GUT has to analyse the current impasse with the government.
Wasn’t it a political decision taken not to pay the 4% salary increase to public officers but to find US$63 million to pay WRB for the majority of shares in Grenlec, and also to find money to hire former Tourism Minister Alexandra Otway-Noel as an advisor to the Prime Minister when the Treasury is bankrupt?
THE NEW TODAY believes that it was incumbent upon GUT to organise and mobilise its support base for a strong show of force on the streets in the city in order to send a serious message to government that it means business on behalf of its membership in the teaching profession.
No Prime Minister would be shaken by this low turn-out of workers and can rightfully claim that he won a victory on Wednesday.
There is also the message coming out that the new leadership of the Public Workers Union (PWU) has its work cut out to mobilise civil servants to come out in large numbers to send shivers down the back of Prime Minister Mitchell and his NNP regime which has dominated the political life of the country for the past 30 years.
The new trade union leaders in GUT and PWU should be cognizant of the fact that two stalwarts in the labour movement, current President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey and Ambassador to Cuba, Claris Charles are not on their side in this struggle given their involvement with the current government.
THE NEW TODAY is loath to believe that both Humphrey and Charles would be breathing a sigh of relief that Wednesday’s showing did little or nothing to send cold bumps to the regime.
The Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), which Humphrey headed for more than 25 years, did not also help the cause of GUT on the 4% issue given its pre-occupation on the RBTT issue.
It is a fact that TAWU which controls workers in key sectors of the economy is a critical player in any struggle in the labour movement in the country.
Battles on too many fronts by the trade unions will be detrimental to their various causes in going ahead.
All the trade unions in Grenada need to understand and very quickly so, that they can only bring home the bacon for their workers if they close ranks. As the saying goes “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL”
The message is also clear on the political front that it will take organised work among “the masses” to remove Dr. Mitchell and the NNP from power.
The country is right now lacking a vanguard opposition political party like back in the 1970’s and early 80’s when the New Jewel Movement (NJM) led by Maurice Bishop was able to emerge above the very conservative Grenada National Party (GNP) and take the fight to the Eric Gairy labour party government and eventually remove it by force of arms on March 13, 1979.
Today, Grenada is crying out for that NJM-type approach to organised political work among “The Masses” within our democratic setting to take the fight to PM Mitchell and NNP.
It was done in 2008 and can be done again if the anti-NNP forces come to the realisation that divided they surely will be picked off and fall down flat on the ground but united they will conquer and especially if the organised political work is done and not adopting a piecemeal approach to the politics.
This period calls for serious political and organised work among the masses and less chat room discourse in order to defeat the well-entrenched NNP with a political machinery under Dr. Mitchell’s leadership that has won five of the last six general elections in Grenada.