The New Today
Local News

Grimes: PWU will meet with gov’t on pension ruling

Brian Grimes – the current President of the Public Workers Union

The Public Workers Union (PWU) has not ruled out a sit down with the Keith Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) government in the aftermath of the recent high court ruling in favour of pension for public sector employees that will cost the state millions of dollars.

Speaking to THE NEW TODAY on Monday, PWU President Brian Grimes said that despite the fact that his organization and the two other major public sector unions stayed away from a meeting called by government last Friday where the Pension issue was to be discussed, he said that a sit down will eventually take place.

“At the end of the day we must sit with government at some point – we can’t avoid it regardless of how you think of them –they are the sitting government – they are the paymaster,” he said.

Apart from PWU, the other two unions directly involved in the court-related Pension issue are the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) now headed by Jude Bartholomew and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), led by President-General, Senator Andre Lewis.

High court judge, Justice Raulston Glasgow ruled that the Pension Disqualification act that was passed by the 1979-83 left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was null and void since it was in conflict with the provisions of Pension as guaranteed in the 1973 Grenada Constitution Order.

The ruling opened the door for all public sector employees who joined the service after 1983 to qualify for pension outside of the narrow confines of the PRG-established National Insurance Scheme (NIS).

According to Grimes, the unions had written to government indicating that they have no issues meeting with them to discuss “an implementation phase to this judgement” from Glasgow since it was very concerned about the correspondence from the authorities to them to attend last Friday’s session at the National stadium at Queen’s Park.

He said the PWU itself sought legal advice from attorney-at-law, Jimmy Bristol, QC, and was given specific instructions with respect to the proposed meeting with the Mitchell government.

“…He instructed us that in going to meetings we must ensure at all times there is a clear, cogent and specific agenda. The correspondence from government did not have those particular qualities.”

Grimes also raised concerns with the failure of the correspondence to give an indication as to “who were the stakeholders involved” in the discussions.

“When we analysed it the government had a full team from the Prime Minister down to the Attorney-General, about 6 or 7 specialists and they were requesting that our organisation (PWU) only bring 3 people – so there’s an imbalance there,” he said.

Grimes told THE NEW TODAY that the lack of an agenda and the restriction on its personnel “were of deep concern to us” and as such the decision was taken to boycott the meeting with government.

In addition, he said the PWU saw what he referred to as “a number of stakeholders” who were invited to the meeting that “we believe respectfully were unrelated to the matter on hand”.

Related:  GPWU President demands thorough consultation on Pension Reform

“We saw some unions that were not in the court action …so… we thought that can be a bit cumbersome. We think it is best that the three main claimants involved should be at that meeting to make the discussions a little bit more streamlined,” he added.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the meeting was also attended by representatives of two pro-government unions, the Seamen & Waterfront Workers Union (SWWU) and the Grenada Maritime, Manual & Intellectual Workers Union (GMMIWU), and bargaining bodies representing police and prison officers.

Grimes disclosed that these concerns of PWU were sent to government in a letter dispatched to them the day before the scheduled meeting.

The PWU boss admitted that the proposed meeting with government on the pension issue had become very “highly divisive” among public officers.

He said that some union members were “happy” that the union did not attend the meeting with government while others held the view that they should have attended the session.

He stressed that the anti-meeting section feared that the union might be negotiating away their constitutionally won pension victory from Justice Glasgow.

“There were some who were angry with the thought process, thinking that if you did not sit with government it will take longer for there to be an implementation of the court judgement,” he said.

“This is what we are having to deal with but … what we are going to focus on as an organisation, as an executive is doing the proper thing. So we have no aversions to meeting with government, sitting and discussing but under sterilised circumstances where there is an even playing field and we can talk about the implementation phase,” he remarked.

Grimes also expressed concerns over the fact that the Mitchell-led government has not given any firm assurances on whether it will appeal the Glasgow ruling in the 42-day window set aside for it to do so after the judgment was handed down against the State.

He said: “The government of Grenada, up to this blessed day, has not stated either privately to the Grenada Public Workers Union or publicly to the nation that they are going to honour the court judgement. We are seeing a lot of dancing, we are hearing a lot of things at political rallies and a lot of double talk.

We would like something definitive from the government to ease the tension and make the discussions at the table having a greater level of trust.”

The PWU boss made it clear that the only issue to be discussed with government on Pension is implementation of the judgement and not renegotiation of the pension act that governs the operation of the civil service.

“Never. We cannot do that. We were told in no uncertain terms by our lawyer, even if we attempt, it’s almost an impossibility – we cannot renegotiate a constitutional judgement,” Grimes said.

If you are satisfied with the information provided by The New Today to our many readers, followers and supporters around the world, then you can show your appreciation by making a financial contribution to the effort of our team of dedicated workers.

Giving back is a way of saying thank you for our efforts

Support The New Today