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May Day held under unusual industrial challenges

Flashback to a previous Labour Day celebration in Grenada prior to the coronavirus pandemic when workers were free to assemble in large numbers for street marches

The Grenada Trade Union Council (TUC) has said that workers will observe international workers day on Saturday under unusual challenges.

Government employees have been engaged in a prolonged struggle for pension, docked salaries and more recently a 4% salary increase that is past due.

Head of the TUC, labour Senator Andre Lewis, speaking at a news conference Wednesday to highlight national activities for May Day, accused the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government of a blatant attack on workers involved in the struggle.

The TUC President said the interrogation of Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) President, Jude Bartholomew by Criminal Investigation Officers of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) a week ago is the latest in a series of attacks launched by the regime to pressure workers and throw cold water on the Movement.

He said this year’s May Day is being observed within an atmosphere of “unusual industrial relations challenges”.

He went on to say, “We are heading into a May Day when there has been a blatant attack on workers”.

The TUC has publicly accused the NNP leadership of orchestrating last Saturday’s action against the GUT leader.

“The Minister of National Security and the government must take responsibility”, he said, adding that the labour movement has no doubt that the police were not acting on their own.

Bartholomew faced hours of questioning on recent protest marches which the police say were conducted without officially seeking permission, though senior officers admitted at a news conference this week that special accommodations were made at the last minute to allow the activities to go ahead.

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Kenny James, an executive member of the GUT and 1st Vice President of the TUC also expressed the belief that the Bartholomew incident was an attempt at intimidation of workers by the government.

“Clearly this move over the weekend was geared to intimidate a leader within the labour movement,” he said.

“As we celebrate international workers day we would also lament the fact that what we are seeing in our country is not acceptable for a living democracy,” he added.

James labelled the visit to the GUT president’s home at Pomme Rose in St David by criminal investigators as breaking a sacred trust, that the right to protest and the right to assemble is protected.

On Saturday, the labour movement will stage what union leaders are calling “a blended celebration” with activities scaled back in order to comply with Emergency Powers COVID-19 Protocols and much of it being transmitted on virtual platforms.

Each trade union will only be allowed to march with twenty members from the Tempe Playing Field, through River Road, ending at the National Stadium where a rally will take place with speeches from trade union leaders, solidarity messages and an address by the Minister for Labour, Peter David.

Speculation is rife that Minister David will be peppered by the workers who are fired up over the government’s failure to settle their outstanding issues and the recent questioning of the GUT leader.

Executive member of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Paula Phillip said that the TUC has decided to forego the usual social events in order to safeguard members.