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PWU: Govt is trying to make the union look bad

File photo of PWU workers outside the Ministerial Complex in a protest against their employers

Grenada’s Public Workers Union (PWU) has accused the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration of trying to undermine it with an announcement that with immediate effect it was temporarily suspending the payment of responsibility and duty allowances as well as honorarium to public servants.

A spokesman for the union told THE NEW TODAY that the Mitchell government is fully aware that those matters are not covered in the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement and that PWU cannot interfere with any decision taken by the regime on those matters.

He said the issue of the honorarium payment falls entirely into the hands of the Cabinet of Ministers and as such the union is in no position to negotiate with the administration on the matter.

“The putting out of this statement – I believe it has been done to disenfranchise public officers because government knows that they have the authority to do this (make honorarium payment) and it is something that they would agree to give,” he said.

“….I believe government is trying to disenfranchise public officers why they do that at this time and to try to make the union look weak because they know it is something that the union cannot really challenge.

The union official went on: “It is not challengeable legally – we can’t go to the Ministry of Labour and stand on a strong footing to challenge it”.

In an official release issued, the Mitchell government said it was forced to suspend these payments to public officers as it continues to review the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the island in light of falling revenue collections.

According to the spokesman, the PWU is fully aware that there is no “solid contract” with government which “is saying to us that you cannot touch that (honorary)” as there is no written agreement on it.

Stating that this is entirely a government decision that has nothing to do with PWU, he said that, “as a policy, it could be easily removed as there is nothing signed with the union”.

He told this newspaper that an honorarium is given to a worker “for something you did extra” and referred to it as simply a payment given to an employee “for doing duties outside of what they are being paid to do by government”.

“The employer may decide that I want to award you an honorarium and it is mainly a one-off payment that you get,” he said, adding that it is something that the Cabinet must approve without any input from PWU.

The official said: “If it is not in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that you can get an honorarium – it’s the gentleman’s agreement that we have with them that says someone can get an honorarium.

“…It’s a memorandum that says if somebody does something extra you should award them some motivational award to tell them thank you and you could do it in a monetary manner,” he added.

According to the official, this is precisely the reason why the PWU Executive has not spoken about the issue as yet since the announcement of the suspension of the payments from the Mitchell-led government.

“We would speak about it but we would get our legal advice and we would speak about it in a manner to tell government that we know what they are doing more or less,” he said.

The PWU official noted that an honorarium is not always given to the worker in the form of money since the employee can also get time-off from the job for what was done.

On the issue of the Responsibility Allowance, he said that this is due to a worker for doing additional duties on a Monthly basis for someone in a similar capacity.

He explained that the worker is rewarded for “more or less performing two jobs or part of another job”.

“You get a Responsibility Allowance for performing the other job. It is not above your pay grade – it is within your pay grade so you cannot get an acting allowance for it – so you will get a Responsibility Allowance.

It is agreed to and approved by the Cabinet so that you will get that Responsibility Allowance,” he said.

According to the high-ranking PWU member, the union can challenge only the suspension of the Duty Allowance since it is enshrined in the Public Services Rules and Regulations.

He said: “The duty allowance is something that will cut immediately you go on vacation and if someone then comes to take over from you then that person is entitled to the Duty Allowance but the Responsibility and Honorarium is one that we cannot really challenge.”

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