After approximately nine (9) months of waiting, most public officers will finally receive retroactive pay for salary increases owed to them at the end of October by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.
President of the Public Workers Union (PWU) Brian Grimes confirmed this following a meeting Tuesday with Labour Minister Peter David, Labour Commissioner Cyrus Griffith, and representatives from the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU).
THE NEW TODAY understands that the NNP regime was able to strike a deal with a major credit union in St. George to pay the outstanding 4% increases, which became an issue of contention when the government unilaterally deferred payments for 2021, due to economic conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Grimes said the unions received “complete assurance that at the end of this month, October, we will get retroactive pay on our bank accounts” during Tuesday’s meeting with the senior government minister.
“This is absolutely good news for our workers at this point when the cost of all goods has skyrocketed,” he said.
“We all know that the cost of freight has increased, some say by as much as 500%…so, this retroactive pay would certainly come in handy and help us wade through these tough economic times,” he added.
However, while the PWU boss welcomed the move, he also highlighted “the unfair policy” of the Department of Public Administration (DPA) of the Government of Grenada in regards to contract workers who will not be on the receiving end when the payment is finally made at the end of the month.
He said that DPA is insisting that they consider these employees not eligible to get the 4% increases agreed upon in the 2019 Collective Agreement, for the period 2020 to 2022.
He pointed out that “a significant portion of those workers who did not get the 4% pay increase do work in the health sector, in the COVID-19 units,” and felt that “these workers are being disenfranchised.”
“Tell me what law, what kind of interpretation disenfranchises workers of that ilk and that nature from getting increases in this time? And that question must be answered,” Grimes said.
“We (GPWU) believe and we have complete assurance that all these workers pay union dues and are part of the public service so, therefore, they are part of our bargaining unit but for the sake of convenience, the Government of Grenada is stating that many of these workers are not part of our bargaining unit,” he added.
Grimes went on to say: “There is a convenient interpretation on the part of the government but we have proof that there are workers who got (increases) in 2020 (and) 2019 but did not get in 2021, and it’s all about their version of fiscal prudence and the influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the affairs of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the public service.
“Do you deem it as good leadership when a government disenfranchises its public officers in the name of pleasing foreign organisations? It is almost like they are being paid or rewarded for trampling on the rights of our public officers,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
Grimes pointed out that “the Prime Minister of the country has been quoted as saying, well if we regularise all our nurses and public officers, the IMF would not give us a US$25M grant…”
The PWU head also expressed the view that “our country is between the devil and the deep blue sea, if instead of listening to the cries of the people and empowering our workers economically the Prime Minister is saying (that) for us to get something from the IMF they must trample on the economic rights of our workers”.
“This is a very odd situation and this is something that the union must address forthwith,” he remarked.
Grimes indicated that DPA, in response to the PWU’s inquiries about why some contract workers did not get the increase when the government started paying the 4% at the end of August, did not provide an “in-depth response” and expressed the view that this is an issue that “the Union and the government representatives will have to sit and thrash out in the name of the betterment of those workers.”
“I think it is inhumane on the part of the government to tell many of these workers, our contract workers, that they cannot get that 4%.
Grimes said the PWU is “currently building data as far as those workers are concerned and we are going to put it on the table and categorically request and demand that they are paid their 4% because they are legally due, morally due, and they are just due on all levels for that increase.”
He charged that “these workers are sacrificing and contributing to the development of our society and are doing whatever it takes” and that “it is just morally unfair for the government to say they are not entitled based on some warped or perverse interpretation of the law”.
“It is not fundamentally right for a worker in the public service who has to face all the economic trials like inflation and rise in the cost of goods as every other person, pay union dues, and is refused the opportunity and the right to get a salary increase. Do you think that is right?
“I want people who are reading this to ask themselves that question (and) even though you may want to take a different perspective on that, how can one substantiate this move by the government to have people on continuous fixed-term contracts without giving them salary increases”.
“That is fundamentally immoral and unjust,” charged the head of the PWU, which represents the majority of workers in the public service.