More and more Grenadian workers are being confronted by an anti-worker Government and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, now an unbearable monster.
It’s the most profound challenge facing workers in both the private and public sectors as they celebrate May Day 2021.
Like last year, the COVID-19 protocols are restricting the traditional Labour Day parade and celebrations.
Workers have suffered job losses, and many have plunged into poverty. The Keith Mitchell Government, which before COVID-19, boasted of having the fastest growing economy in the OECS has offered little financial assistance to the less fortunate.
The government-controlled National Transformation Fund, which gets millions from the selling of thousands of Grenadian Passports is yet to impact ordinary workers.
Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that the government of Prime Minister Mitchell is on a path of worker intimidation and union-busting/destruction.
Workers are being terrorised on just about every front by this NNP Government. Dr. Mitchell has created a cabal that is determined to have political control over all aspects of our social and economic life.
This government has transformed much of the public service into an arm of the ruling NNP. Dr. Mitchell has turned the public service into contract work. According to his government’s monthly payroll, more than half of all state workers are on contract.
These workers are given six-month or one-year contracts and thereafter seek renewal, hence, being subservient to the political directorate. Established and permanent workers are reduced to the minimum.
As part of its campaign to win the 2018 General Elections, the NNP promised workers the reinstatement of the Grenada Constitution pension and gratuity, abolished during the 1979 to 83 People’s Revolutionary Government of Maurice Bishop. The NNP Government has reneged on its promise and the matter is now in Court.
The Minister of Labour, Peter David is a dismal failure. His government failed miserably to bring about a settlement to the industrial dispute between the workers, represented by TAWU and the employer, RBTT, which has now ceased its operations in Grenada. The workers are left to battle on their own.
Above all, and frightening, the Government is now using its police force to intimidate workers, and more specifically, the President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Jude Bartholomew.
Three police officers went to his home and demanded that he accompany them to Police Headquarters, and subsequently to the St. David Police Station for an interview.
The St. David Primary School teacher spent almost three hours being questioned on his union’s protests.
The GUT is aggressively leading the struggle against the government to pay the 4% salary owed to the workers. But clearly, the Prime Minister, who is the Minister of National Security, is sending a message that he will no longer tolerate dissent and is prepared to use police to quell the protest.
We salute the brave GUT workers and others championing their just cause. The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the Grenada economy. However, if the NNP Government could find $200 million to purchase GRENLEC and thousands to employ failed politicians like Alexandra Otway as an advisor in the midst of the Pandemic, then what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
Workers are no strangers to the rough and tumble. On May 1, 1886, labour unions in the USA took strike action, demanding that workers should not be made to work for more than 8 hours a day. Just three days after the strike began, a blast occurred in Chicago’s Haymarket Square leaving many dead.
To honour those who died in the blast, the International Socialist Conference declared 1st May as a day designated for labourers.
The commemorative day was established at a meeting in 1889 and gradually spread to other parts of the world.
Teachers are our great patriots. They are up against an unbearable monster.
Three years ago, the government indiscriminately deducted money from teachers’ and public officers’ salaries following street protests for pension and gratuity.
Prime Minister Mitchell’s cruelty against ordinary workers is manifested throughout his premiership. His government used the police to destroy the thriving aquatic business owned by Dorset Charles on Grand Anse Beach. The Court then ruled against the Government, ordering it to pay compensation and it took 20 years for the NNP government to start making any serious payment.
Cabinet Secretary Gemma Bain-Thomas was thrown out of the Public Service by Dr. Mitchell’s Government. Again, the High Court ruled in her favour and ordered the government to pay and three years later it made the first payment.
On the hotly debated COVID-19 Vaccination, Dr. Mitchell publicly stated to workers that no one will be forced to take the vaccine; subsequently, his tone changed after the President of the Grenada Hotel & Tourism Association (GHTA) said vaccination is compulsory to work in the hotel industry.
Addressing hoteliers and the upper class, the Prime Minister did not mix words, taking the side of the employers.
This is a new Keith Mitchell. He has abandoned poor workers and no longer remembers the support of the GUT and its past leaders.
In the late 80s and 90s under the leadership of now Ambassador Claris Charles and Speaker of the House, Michael Pierre, unions were a vehicle in resurrecting his political career following his party’s rejection in the 1990 elections.
In salary negotiations with the late Herbert Blaize government in 1989, Dr. Mitchell was the ace in the pack of cards behind the scenes. He was in the media each day, telling the workers and the nation that the government can pay, inspiring firebrand young and enthusiastic teachers to demand payment.
The Herbert Blaize Government surrendered, selling the government shares to Cable and Wireless to honour their obligations to the workers at the behest of the same Dr. Mitchell.
In conclusion, the late Herbert Blaize did say that what goes around comes around. Workers, let May Day be the dawn of a new day to rid Grenada of an ageing dictator.